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Full text of "Book 1 The Hunger Games"

PARTI 
"THE ASHES" 



2 | P a g e 



Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of 
ash settles on the worn leather. This is where the bed 
I shared with my sister, Prim, stood. Over there was 
the kitchen table. The bricks of the chimney, which 
collapsed in a charred heap, provide a point of 
reference for the rest of the house. How else could I 
orient myself in this sea of gray? 

Almost nothing remains of District 12. A month ago, 
the Capitol's firebombs obliterated the poor coal 
miners' houses in the Seam, the shops in the town, 
even the Justice Building. The only area that escaped 
incineration was the Victor's Village. I don't know why 
exactly. Perhaps so anyone forced to come here on 
Capitol business would have somewhere decent to 
stay. The odd reporter. A committee assessing the 
condition of the coal mines. A squad of Peacekeepers 
checking for returning refugees. 

But no one is returning except me. And that's only for 
a brief visit. The authorities in District 13 were 
against my coming back. They viewed it as a costly 
and pointless venture, given that at least a dozen 
invisible hovercraft are circling overhead for my 
protection and there's no intelligence to be gained. I 
had to see it, though. So much so that I made it a 
condition of my cooperating with any of their plans. 

Finally, Plutarch Heavensbee, the Head Gamemaker 
who had organized the rebels in the Capitol, threw up 
his hands. "Let her go. Better to waste a day than 
another month. Maybe a little tour of Twelve is just 
what she needs to convince her we're on the same 
side." 



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Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



The same side. A pain stabs my left temple and I 
press my hand against it. Right on the spot where 
Johanna Mason hit me with the coil of wire. The 
memories swirl as I try to sort out what is true and 
what is false. What series of events led me to be 
standing in the ruins of my city? This is hard because 
the effects of the concussion she gave me haven't 
completely subsided and my thoughts still have a 
tendency to jumble together. Also, the drugs they use 
to control my pain and mood sometimes make me see 
things. I guess. I'm still not entirely convinced that I 
was hallucinating the night the floor of my hospital 
room transformed into a carpet of writhing snakes. 

I use a technique one of the doctors suggested. I start 
with the simplest things I know to be true and work 
toward the more complicated. The list begins to roll in 
my head.... 

My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years 
old. My home is District 12.1 was in the Hunger 
Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me. Peeta was 
taken prisoner. He is thought to be dead. Most likely 
he is dead. It is probably best if he is dead.... 

"Katniss. Should I come down?" My best friend Gale's 
voice reaches me through the headset the rebels 
insisted I wear. He's up in a hovercraft, watching me 
carefully, ready to swoop in if anything goes amiss. I 
realize I'm crouched down now, elbows on my thighs, 
my head braced between my hands. I must look on 
the verge of some kind of breakdown. This won't do. 
Not when they're finally weaning me off the 
medication. 

I straighten up and wave his offer away. "No. I'm fine." 
To reinforce this, I begin to move away from my old 
house and in toward the town. Gale asked to be 
dropped off in 12 with me, but he didn't force the 
4 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



issue when I refused his company. He understands I 
don't want anyone with me today. Not even him. 
Some walks you have to take alone. 

The summer's been scorching hot and dry as a bone. 
There's been next to no rain to disturb the piles of ash 
left by the attack. They shift here and there, in 
reaction to my footsteps. No breeze to scatter them. I 
keep my eyes on what I remember as the road, 
because when I first landed in the Meadow, I wasn't 
careful and I walked right into a rock. Only it wasn't a 
rock— it was someone's skull. It rolled over and over 
and landed faceup, and for a long time I couldn't stop 
looking at the teeth, wondering whose they were, 
thinking of how mine would probably look the same 
way under similar circumstances. 

I stick to the road out of habit, but it's a bad choice, 
because it's full of the remains of those who tried to 
flee. Some were incinerated entirely. But others, 
probably overcome with smoke, escaped the worst of 
the flames and now lie reeking in various states of 
decomposition, carrion for scavengers, blanketed by 
flies. I killed you, I think as I pass a pile. And you. 
And you. 

Because I did. It was my arrow, aimed at the chink in 
the force field surrounding the arena, that brought on 
this firestorm of retribution. That sent the whole 
country of Panem into chaos. 

In my head I hear President Snow's words, spoken the 
morning I was to begin the Victory Tour. "Katniss 
Everdeen, the girl who was on fire, you have provided 
a spark that, left unattended, may grow to an inferno 
that destroys Panem." It turns out he wasn't 
exaggerating or simply trying to scare me. He was, 
perhaps, genuinely attempting to enlist my help. But I 



5 | P a g e 



Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



had already set something in motion that I had no 
ability to control. 



Burning. Still burning, I think numbly. The fires at 
the coal mines belch black smoke in the distance. 
There's no one left to care, though. More than ninety 
percent of the district's population is dead. The 
remaining eight hundred or so are refugees in District 
13— which, as far as I'm concerned, is the same thing 
as being homeless forever. 

I know I shouldn't think that; I know I should be 
grateful for the way we have been welcomed. Sick, 
wounded, starving, and empty-handed. Still, I can 
never get around the fact that District 13 was 
instrumental in 12's destruction. This doesn't absolve 
me of blame— there's plenty of blame to go around. 
But without them, I would not have been part of a 
larger plot to overthrow the Capitol or had the 
wherewithal to do it. 

The citizens of District 12 had no organized resistance 
movement of their own. No say in any of this. They 
only had the misfortune to have me. Some survivors 
think it's good luck, though, to be free of District 12 
at last. To have escaped the endless hunger and 
oppression, the perilous mines, the lash of our final 
Head Peacekeeper, Romulus Thread. To have a new 
home at all is seen as a wonder since, up until a short 
time ago, we hadn't even known that District 13 still 
existed. 

The credit for the survivors' escape has landed 
squarely on Gale's shoulders, although he's loath to 
accept it. As soon as the Quarter Quell was over— as 
soon as I had been lifted from the arena— the 
electricity in District 12 was cut, the televisions went 
black, and the Seam became so silent, people could 
hear one another's heartbeats. No one did anything to 



6 | P a g e 



Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



protest or celebrate what had happened in the arena. 
Yet within fifteen minutes, the sky was filled with 
hoverplanes and the bombs were raining down. 



It was Gale who thought of the Meadow, one of the 
few places not filled with old wooden homes 
embedded with coal dust. He herded those he could 
in its direction, including my mother and Prim. He 
formed the team that pulled down the fence— now just 
a harmless chain-link barrier, with the electricity off— 
and led the people into the woods. He took them to 
the only place he could think of, the lake my father 
had shown me as a child. And it was from there they 
watched the distant flames eat up everything they 
knew in the world. 

By dawn the bombers were long gone, the fires dying, 
the final stragglers rounded up. My mother and Prim 
had set up a medical area for the injured and were 
attempting to treat them with whatever they could 
glean from the woods. Gale had two sets of bows and 
arrows, one hunting knife, one fishing net, and over 
eight hundred terrified people to feed. With the help of 
those who were able-bodied, they managed for three 
days. And that's when the hovercraft unexpectedly 
arrived to evacuate them to District 13, where there 
were more than enough clean, white living 
compartments, plenty of clothing, and three meals a 
day. The compartments had the disadvantage of being 
underground, the clothing was identical, and the food 
was relatively tasteless, but for the refugees of 12, 
these were minor considerations. They were safe. 
They were being cared for. They were alive and eagerly 
welcomed. 

This enthusiasm was interpreted as kindness. But a 
man named Dalton, a District 10 refugee who'd made 
it to 13 on foot a few years ago, leaked the real motive 
to me. "They need you. Me. They need us all. Awhile 



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Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



back, there was some sort of pox epidemic that killed 
a bunch of them and left a lot more infertile. New 
breeding stock. That's how they see us." Back in 10, 
he'd worked on one of the beef ranches, maintaining 
the genetic diversity of the herd with the implantation 
of long-frozen cow embryos. He's very likely right 
about 13, because there don't seem to be nearly 
enough kids around. But so what? We're not being 
kept in pens, we're being trained for work, the 
children are being educated. Those over fourteen have 
been given entry-level ranks in the military and are 
addressed respectfully as "Soldier." Every single 
refugee was granted automatic citizenship by the 
authorities of 13. 

Still, I hate them. But, of course, I hate almost 
everybody now. Myself more than anyone. 

The surface beneath my feet hardens, and under the 
carpet of ash, I feel the paving stones of the square. 
Around the perimeter is a shallow border of refuse 
where the shops stood. A heap of blackened rubble 
has replaced the Justice Building. I walk to the 
approximate site of the bakery Peeta's family owned. 
Nothing much left but the melted lump of the oven. 
Peeta's parents, his two older brothers— none of them 
made it to 13. Fewer than a dozen of what passed for 
District 12's well-to-do escaped the fire. Peeta would 
have nothing to come home to, anyway. Except me... 

I back away from the bakery and bump into 
something, lose my balance, and find myself sitting 
on a hunk of sun-heated metal. I puzzle over what it 
might have been, then remember Thread's recent 
renovations of the square. Stocks, whipping posts, 
and this, the remains of the gallows. Bad. This is bad. 
It brings on the flood of images that torments me, 
awake or asleep. Peeta being tortured— drowned, 
burned, lacerated, shocked, maimed, beaten— as the 



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Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



Capitol tries to get information about the rebellion 
that he doesn't know. I squeeze my eyes shut and try 
to reach for him across the hundreds and hundreds 
of miles, to send my thoughts into his mind, to let 
him know he is not alone. But he is. And I can't help 
him. 

Running. Away from the square and to the one place 
the fire did not destroy. I pass the wreckage of the 
mayor's house, where my friend Madge lived. No word 
of her or her family. Were they evacuated to the 
Capitol because of her father's position, or left to the 
flames? Ashes billow up around me, and I pull the 
hem of my shirt up over my mouth. It's not wondering 
what I breathe in, but who, that threatens to choke 
me. 

The grass has been scorched and the gray snow fell 
here as well, but the twelve fine houses of the Victor's 
Village are unscathed. I bolt into the house I lived in 
for the past year, slam the door closed, and lean back 
against it. The place seems untouched. Clean. Eerily 
quiet. Why did I come back to 12? How can this visit 
help me answer the question I can't escape? 

"What am I going to do?" I whisper to the walls. 
Because I really don't know. 

People keep talking at me, talking, talking, talking. 
Plutarch Heavensbee. His calculating assistant, 
Fulvia Cardew. A mishmash of district leaders. 
Military officials. But not Alma Coin, the president of 
13, who just watches. She's fifty or so, with gray hair 
that falls in an unbroken sheet to her shoulders. I'm 
somewhat fascinated by her hair, since it's so 
uniform, so without a flaw, a wisp, even a split end. 
Her eyes are gray, but not like those of people from 
the Seam. They're very pale, as if almost all the color 



9 | P a g e 



Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



has been sucked out of them. The color of slush that 
you wish would melt away. 



What they want is for me to truly take on the role 
they designed for me. The symbol of the revolution. 
The Mockingjay. It isn't enough, what I've done in the 
past, defying the Capitol in the Games, providing a 
rallying point. I must now become the actual leader, 
the face, the voice, the embodiment of the revolution. 
The person who the districts— most of which are now 
openly at war with the Capitol— can count on to blaze 
the path to victory. I won't have to do it alone. They 
have a whole team of people to make me over, dress 
me, write my speeches, orchestrate my appearances— 
as if that doesn't sound horribly familiar— and all I 
have to do is play my part. Sometimes I listen to them 
and sometimes I just watch the perfect line of Coin's 
hair and try to decide if it's a wig. Eventually, I leave 
the room because my head starts to ache or it's time 
to eat or if I don't get aboveground I might start 
screaming. I don't bother to say anything. I simply get 
up and walk out. 

Yesterday afternoon, as the door was closing behind 
me, I heard Coin say, "I told you we should have 
rescued the boy first." Meaning Peeta. I couldn't agree 
more. He would' ve been an excellent mouthpiece. 

And who did they fish out of the arena instead? Me, 
who won't cooperate. Beetee, an older inventor from 
3, who I rarely see because he was pulled into 
weapons development the minute he could sit 
upright. Literally, they wheeled his hospital bed into 
some top secret area and now he only occasionally 
shows up for meals. He's very smart and very willing 
to help the cause, but not really firebrand material. 
Then there's Finnick Odair, the sex symbol from the 
fishing district, who kept Peeta alive in the arena 
when I couldn't. They want to transform Finnick into 



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Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



a rebel leader as well, but first they'll have to get him 
to stay awake for more than five minutes. Even when 
he is conscious, you have to say everything to him 
three times to get through to his brain. The doctors 
say it's from the electrical shock he received in the 
arena, but I know it's a lot more complicated than 
that. I know that Finnick can't focus on anything in 
13 because he's trying so hard to see what's 
happening in the Capitol to Annie, the mad girl from 
his district who's the only person on earth he loves. 

Despite serious reservations, I had to forgive Finnick 
for his role in the conspiracy that landed me here. He, 
at least, has some idea of what I'm going through. 
And it takes too much energy to stay angry with 
someone who cries so much. 

I move through the downstairs on hunter's feet, 
reluctant to make any sound. I pick up a few 
remembrances: a photo of my parents on their 
wedding day, a blue hair ribbon for Prim, the family 
book of medicinal and edible plants. The book falls 
open to a page with yellow flowers and I shut it 
quickly because it was Peeta's brush that painted 
them. 

What am I going to do? 

Is there any point in doing anything at all? My 
mother, my sister, and Gale's family are finally safe. 
As for the rest of 12, people are either dead, which is 
irreversible, or protected in 13. That leaves the rebels 
in the districts. Of course, I hate the Capitol, but I 
have no confidence that my being the Mockingjay will 
benefit those who are trying to bring it down. How 
can I help the districts when every time I make a 
move, it results in suffering and loss of life? The old 
man shot in District 1 1 for whistling. The crackdown 
in 12 after I intervened in Gale's whipping. My stylist, 

II | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



Cinna, being dragged, bloody and unconscious, from 
the Launch Room before the Games. Plutarch's 
sources believe he was killed during interrogation. 
Brilliant, enigmatic, lovely Cinna is dead because of 
me. I push the thought away because it's too 
impossibly painful to dwell on without losing my 
fragile hold on the situation entirely. 

What am I going to do? 

To become the Mockingjay... could any good I do 
possibly outweigh the damage? Who can I trust to 
answer that question? Certainly not that crew in 13. I 
swear, now that my family and Gale's are out of 
harm's way, I could run away. Except for one 
unfinished piece of business. Peeta. If I knew for sure 
that he was dead, I could just disappear into the 
woods and never look back. But until I do, I'm stuck. 

I spin on my heel at the sound of a hiss. In the 
kitchen doorway, back arched, ears flattened, stands 
the ugliest tomcat in the world. "Buttercup," I say. 
Thousands of people are dead, but he has survived 
and even looks well fed. On what? He can get in and 
out of the house through a window we always left ajar 
in the pantry. He must have been eating field mice. I 
refuse to consider the alternative. 

I squat down and extend a hand. "Come here, boy." 
Not likely. He's angry at his abandonment. Besides, 
I'm not offering food, and my ability to provide scraps 
has always been my main redeeming quality to him. 
For a while, when we used to meet up at the old 
house because we both disliked this new one, we 
seemed to be bonding a little. That's clearly over. He 
blinks those unpleasant yellow eyes. 

"Want to see Prim?" I ask. Her name catches his 

attention. Besides his own, it's the only word that 

12 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



means anything to him. He gives a rusty meow and 
approaches me. I pick him up, stroking his fur, then 
go to the closet and dig out my game bag and 
unceremoniously stuff him in. There's no other way 
I'll be able to carry him on the hovercraft, and he 
means the world to my sister. Her goat, Lady, an 
animal of actual value, has unfortunately not made 
an appearance. 

In my headset, I hear Gale's voice telling me we must 
go back. But the game bag has reminded me of one 
more thing that I want. I sling the strap of the bag 
over the back of a chair and dash up the steps to my 
bedroom. Inside the closet hangs my father's hunting 
jacket. Before the Quell, I brought it here from the old 
house, thinking its presence might be of comfort to 
my mother and sister when I was dead. Thank 
goodness, or it'd be ash now. 

The soft leather feels soothing and for a moment I'm 
calmed by the memories of the hours spent wrapped 
in it. Then, inexplicably, my palms begin to sweat. A 
strange sensation creeps up the back of my neck. I 
whip around to face the room and find it empty. Tidy. 
Everything in its place. There was no sound to alarm 
me. What, then? 

My nose twitches. It's the smell. Cloying and artificial. 
A dab of white peeks out of a vase of dried flowers on 
my dresser. I approach it with cautious steps. There, 
all but obscured by its preserved cousins, is a fresh 
white rose. Perfect. Down to the last thorn and silken 
petal. 

And I know immediately who's sent it to me. 
President Snow. 



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Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



When I begin to gag at the stench, I back away and 
clear out. How long has it been here? A day? An 
hour? The rebels did a security sweep of the Victor's 
Village before I was cleared to come here, checking for 
explosives, bugs, anything unusual. But perhaps the 
rose didn't seem noteworthy to them. Only to me. 

Downstairs, I snag the game bag off the chair, 
bouncing it along the floor until I remember it's 
occupied. On the lawn, I frantically signal to the 
hovercraft while Buttercup thrashes. I jab him with 
my elbow, but this only infuriates him. A hovercraft 
materializes and a ladder drops down. I step on and 
the current freezes me until I'm lifted on board. 

Gale helps me from the ladder. "You all right?" 

"Yeah," I say, wiping the sweat off my face with my 
sleeve. 

He left me a rose! I want to scream, but it's not 
information I'm sure I should share with someone like 
Plutarch looking on. First of all, because it will make 
me sound crazy. Like I either imagined it, which is 
quite possible, or I'm overreacting, which will buy me 
a trip back to the drug-induced dreamland I'm trying 
so hard to escape. No one will fully understand— how 
it's not just a flower, not even just President Snow's 
flower, but a promise of revenge— because no one else 
sat in the study with him when he threatened me 
before the Victory Tour. 

Positioned on my dresser, that white-as-snow rose is 
a personal message to me. It speaks of unfinished 
business. It whispers, I can find you. I can reach you. 
Perhaps I am watching you now. 



14 | P a g e 



Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



Are there Capitol hoverplanes speeding in to blow us 
out of the sky? As we travel over District 12,1 watch 
anxiously for signs of an attack, but nothing pursues 
us. After several minutes, when I hear an exchange 
between Plutarch and the pilot confirming that the 
airspace is clear, I begin to relax a little. 

Gale nods at the howls coming from my game bag. 
"Now I know why you had to go back." 

"If there was even a chance of his recovery." I dump 
the bag onto a seat, where the loathsome creature 
begins a low, deep-throated growl. "Oh, shut up," I 
tell the bag as I sink into the cushioned window seat 
across from it. 

Gale sits next to me. "Pretty bad down there?" 

"Couldn't be much worse," I answer. I look in his eyes 
and see my own grief reflected there. Our hands find 
each other, holding fast to a part of 12 that Snow has 
somehow failed to destroy. We sit in silence for the 
rest of the trip to 13, which only takes about forty-five 
minutes. A mere week's journey on foot. Bonnie and 
Twill, the District 8 refugees who I encountered in the 
woods last winter, weren't so far from their 
destination after all. They apparently didn't make it, 
though. When I asked about them in 13, no one 
seemed to know who I was talking about. Died in the 
woods, I guess. 

From the air, 13 looks about as cheerful as 12. The 
rubble isn't smoking, the way the Capitol shows it on 
television, but there's next to no life aboveground. In 



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the seventy-five years since the Dark Days— when 13 
was said to have been obliterated in the war between 
the Capitol and the districts— almost all new 
construction has been beneath the earth's surface. 
There was already a substantial underground facility 
here, developed over centuries to be either a 
clandestine refuge for government leaders in time of 
war or a last resort for humanity if life above became 
unlivable. Most important for the people of 13, it was 
the center of the Capitol's nuclear weapons 
development program. During the Dark Days, the 
rebels in 13 wrested control from the government 
forces, trained their nuclear missiles on the Capitol, 
and then struck a bargain: They would play dead in 
exchange for being left alone. The Capitol had another 
nuclear arsenal out west, but it couldn't attack 13 
without certain retaliation. It was forced to accept 
13's deal. The Capitol demolished the visible remains 
of the district and cut off all access from the outside. 
Perhaps the Capitol's leaders thought that, without 
help, 13 would die off on its own. It almost did a few 
times, but it always managed to pull through due to 
strict sharing of resources, strenuous discipline, and 
constant vigilance against any further attacks from 
the Capitol. 

Now the citizens live almost exclusively underground. 
You can go outside for exercise and sunlight but only 
at very specific times in your schedule. You can't miss 
your schedule. Every morning, you're supposed to 
stick your right arm in this contraption in the wall. It 
tattoos the smooth inside of your forearm with your 
schedule for the day in a sickly purple ink. 7:00— 
Breakfast. 7:30~Kitchen Duties. 8:30-Education 
Center, Room 17. And so on. The ink is indelible until 
22:00— Bathing. That's when whatever keeps it water 
resistant breaks down and the whole schedule rinses 
away. The lights-out at 22:30 signals that everyone 
not on the night shift should be in bed. 
16 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



At first, when I was so ill in the hospital, I could forgo 
being imprinted. But once I moved into Compartment 
307 with my mother and sister, I was expected to get 
with the program. Except for showing up for meals, 
though, I pretty much ignore the words on my arm. I 
just go back to our compartment or wander around 
13 or fall asleep somewhere hidden. An abandoned 
air duct. Behind the water pipes in the laundry. 
There's a closet in the Education Center that's great 
because no one ever seems to need school supplies. 
They're so frugal with things here, waste is practically 
a criminal activity. Fortunately, the people of 12 have 
never been wasteful. But once I saw Fulvia Cardew 
crumple up a sheet of paper with just a couple of 
words written on it and you would've thought she'd 
murdered someone from the looks she got. Her face 
turned tomato red, making the silver flowers inlaid in 
her plump cheeks even more noticeable. The very 
portrait of excess. One of my few pleasures in 13 is 
watching the handful of pampered Capitol "rebels" 
squirming as they try to fit in. 

I don't know how long I'll be able to get away with my 
complete disregard for the clockwork precision of 
attendance required by my hosts. Right now, they 
leave me alone because I'm classified as mentally 
disoriented— it says so right on my plastic medical 
bracelet— and everyone has to tolerate my ramblings. 
But that can't last forever. Neither can their patience 
with the Mockingjay issue. 

From the landing pad, Gale and I walk down a series 
of stairways to Compartment 307. We could take the 
elevator, only it reminds me too much of the one that 
lifted me into the arena. I'm having a hard time 
adjusting to being underground so much. But after 
the surreal encounter with the rose, for the first time 
the descent makes me feel safer. 



17 | P a g e 



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I hesitate at the door marked 307, anticipating the 
questions from my family. "What am I going to tell 
them about Twelve?" I ask Gale. 

"I doubt they'll ask for details. They saw it burn. 
They'll mostly be worried about how you're handling 
it." Gale touches my cheek. "Like I am." 

I press my face against his hand for a moment. "I'll 
survive." 

Then I take a deep breath and open the door. My 
mother and sister are home for 18:00— Reflection, a 
half hour of downtime before dinner. I see the concern 
on their faces as they try to gauge my emotional state. 
Before anyone can ask anything, I empty my game 
bag and it becomes 18:00— Cat Adoration. Prim just 
sits on the floor weeping and rocking that awful 
Buttercup, who interrupts his purring only for an 
occasional hiss at me. He gives me a particularly 
smug look when she ties the blue ribbon around his 
neck. 

My mother hugs the wedding photo tightly against 
her chest and then places it, along with the book of 
plants, on our government-issued chest of drawers. I 
hang my father's jacket on the back of a chair. For a 
moment, the place almost seems like home. So I 
guess the trip to 12 wasn't a complete waste. 

We're heading down to the dining hall for 18:30— 
Dinner when Gale's communicuff begins to beep. It 
looks like an oversized watch, but it receives print 
messages. Being granted a communicuff is a special 
privilege that's reserved for those important to the 
cause, a status Gale achieved by his rescue of the 
citizens of 12. "They need the two of us in Command," 
he says. 



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Trailing a few steps behind Gale, I try to collect myself 
before I'm thrown into what's sure to be another 
relentless Mockingjay session. I linger in the doorway 
of Command, the high-tech meeting/war council 
room complete with computerized talking walls, 
electronic maps showing the troop movements in 
various districts, and a giant rectangular table with 
control panels I'm not supposed to touch. No one 
notices me, though, because they're all gathered at a 
television screen at the far end of the room that airs 
the Capitol broadcast around the clock. I'm thinking I 
might be able to slip away when Plutarch, whose 
ample frame has been blocking the television, catches 
sight of me and waves urgently for me to join them. I 
reluctantly move forward, trying to imagine how it 
could be of interest to me. It's always the same. War 
footage. Propaganda. Replaying the bombings of 
District 12. An ominous message from President 
Snow. So it's almost entertaining to see Caesar 
Flickerman, the eternal host of the Hunger Games, 
with his painted face and sparkly suit, preparing to 
give an interview. Until the camera pulls back and I 
see that his guest is Peeta. 

A sound escapes me. The same combination of gasp 
and groan that comes from being submerged in water, 
deprived of oxygen to the point of pain. I push people 
aside until I am right in front of him, my hand resting 
on the screen. I search his eyes for any sign of hurt, 
any reflection of the agony of torture. There is 
nothing. Peeta looks healthy to the point of 
robustness. His skin is glowing, flawless, in that full- 
body-polish way. His manner's composed, serious. I 
can't reconcile this image with the battered, bleeding 
boy who haunts my dreams. 

Caesar settles himself more comfortably in the chair 
across from Peeta and gives him a long look. 
"So... Peeta... welcome back." 



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Peeta smiles slightly. "I bet you thought you'd done 
your last interview with me, Caesar." 

"I confess, I did," says Caesar. "The night before the 
Quarter Quell... well, who ever thought we'd see you 
again?" 

"It wasn't part of my plan, that's for sure," says Peeta 
with a frown. 

Caesar leans in to him a little. "I think it was clear to 
all of us what your plan was. To sacrifice yourself in 
the arena so that Katniss Everdeen and your child 
could survive." 

"That was it. Clear and simple." Peeta's fingers trace 
the upholstered pattern on the arm of the chair. "But 
other people had plans as well." 

Yes, other people had plans, I think. Has Peeta 
guessed, then, how the rebels used us as pawns? 
How my rescue was arranged from the beginning? 
And finally, how our mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, 
betrayed us both for a cause he pretended to have no 
interest in? 

In the silence that follows, I notice the lines that have 
formed between Peeta's eyebrows. He has guessed or 
he has been told. But the Capitol has not killed or 
even punished him. For right now, that exceeds my 
wildest hopes. I drink in his wholeness, the 
soundness of his body and mind. It runs through me 
like the morphling they give me in the hospital, 
dulling the pain of the last weeks. 

"Why don't you tell us about that last night in the 
arena?" suggests Caesar. "Help us sort a few things 
out." 



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Peeta nods but takes his time speaking. "That last 
night... to tell you about that last night... well, first of 
all, you have to imagine how it felt in the arena. It 
was like being an insect trapped under a bowl filled 
with steaming air. And all around you, jungle... green 
and alive and ticking. That giant clock ticking away 
your life. Every hour promising some new horror. You 
have to imagine that in the past two days, sixteen 
people have died--some of them defending you. At the 
rate things are going, the last eight will be dead by 
morning. Save one. The victor. And your plan is that 
it won't be you." 

My body breaks out in a sweat at the memory. My 
hand slides down the screen and hangs limply at my 
side. Peeta doesn't need a brush to paint images from 
the Games. He works just as well in words. 

"Once you're in the arena, the rest of the world 
becomes very distant," he continues. "All the people 
and things you loved or cared about almost cease to 
exist. The pink sky and the monsters in the jungle 
and the tributes who want your blood become your 
final reality, the only one that ever mattered. As bad 
as it makes you feel, you're going to have to do some 
killing, because in the arena, you only get one wish. 
And it's very costly." 

"It costs your life," says Caesar. 

"Oh, no. It costs a lot more than your life. To murder 
innocent people?" says Peeta. "It costs everything you 
are." 

"Everything you are," repeats Caesar quietly. 

A hush has fallen over the room, and I can feel it 
spreading across Panem. A nation leaning in toward 



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its screens. Because no one has ever talked about 
what it's really like in the arena before. 

Peeta goes on. "So you hold on to your wish. And that 
last night, yes, my wish was to save Katniss. But even 
without knowing about the rebels, it didn't feel right. 
Everything was too complicated. I found myself 
regretting I hadn't run off with her earlier in the day, 
as she had suggested. But there was no getting out of 
it at that point." 

"You were too caught up in Beetee's plan to electrify 
the salt lake," says Caesar. 

"Too busy playing allies with the others. I should have 
never let them separate us!" Peeta bursts out. "That's 
when I lost her." 

"When you stayed at the lightning tree, and she and 
Johanna Mason took the coil of wire down to the 
water," Caesar clarifies. 

"I didn't want to!" Peeta flushes in agitation. "But I 
couldn't argue with Beetee without indicating we were 
about to break away from the alliance. When that 
wire was cut, everything just went insane. I can only 
remember bits and pieces. Trying to find her. 
Watching Brutus kill Chaff. Killing Brutus myself. I 
know she was calling my name. Then the lightning 
bolt hit the tree, and the force field around the 
arena... blew out." 

"Katniss blew it out, Peeta," says Caesar. "You've seen 
the footage." 

"She didn't know what she was doing. None of us 
could follow Beetee's plan. You can see her trying to 
figure out what to do with that wire," Peeta snaps 
back. 



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"All right. It just looks suspicious," says Caesar. "As if 
she was part of the rebels' plan all along." 

Peeta's on his feet, leaning in to Caesar's face, hands 
locked on the arms of his interviewer's chair. "Really? 
And was it part of her plan for Johanna to nearly kill 
her? For that electric shock to paralyze her? To trigger 
the bombing?" He's yelling now. "She didn't know, 
Caesar! Neither of us knew anything except that we 
were trying to keep each other alive!" 

Caesar places his hand on Peeta's chest in a gesture 
that's both self-protective and conciliatory. "Okay, 
Peeta, I believe you." 

"Okay." Peeta withdraws from Caesar, pulling back 
his hands, running them through his hair, mussing 
his carefully styled blond curls. He slumps back in 
his chair, distraught. 

Caesar waits a moment, studying Peeta. "What about 
your mentor, Haymitch Abernathy?" 

Peeta's face hardens. "I don't know what Haymitch 
knew. " 

"Could he have been part of the conspiracy?" asks 
Caesar. 

"He never mentioned it," says Peeta. 

Caesar presses on. "What does your heart tell you?" 

"That I shouldn't have trusted him," says Peeta. 
"That's all." 

I haven't seen Haymitch since I attacked him on the 
hovercraft, leaving long claw marks down his face. I 
know it's been bad for him here. District 13 strictly 



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forbids any production or consumption of intoxicating 
beverages, and even the rubbing alcohol in the 
hospital is kept under lock and key. Finally, 
Haymitch is being forced into sobriety, with no secret 
stashes or home-brewed concoctions to ease his 
transition. They've got him in seclusion until he's 
dried out, as he's not deemed fit for public display. It 
must be excruciating, but I lost all my sympathy for 
Haymitch when I realized how he had deceived us. I 
hope he's watching the Capitol broadcast now, so he 
can see that Peeta has cast him off as well. 

Caesar pats Peeta' s shoulder. "We can stop now if you 
want." 

"Was there more to discuss?" says Peeta wryly. 

"I was going to ask your thoughts on the war, but if 
you're too upset..." begins Caesar. 

"Oh, I'm not too upset to answer that." Peeta takes a 
deep breath and then looks straight into the camera. 
"I want everyone watching— whether you're on the 
Capitol or the rebel side— to stop for just a moment 
and think about what this war could mean. For 
human beings. We almost went extinct fighting one 
another before. Now our numbers are even fewer. Our 
conditions more tenuous. Is this really what we want 
to do? Kill ourselves off completely? In the hopes that- 
-what? Some decent species will inherit the smoking 
remains of the earth?" 

"I don't really... I'm not sure I'm following..." says 
Caesar. 

"We can't fight one another, Caesar," Peeta explains. 
"There won't be enough of us left to keep going. If 
everybody doesn't lay down their weapons— and I 
mean, as in very soon— it's all over, anyway." 
24 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



"So... you're calling for a cease-fire?" Caesar asks. 



"Yes. I'm calling for a cease-fire," says Peeta tiredly. 
"Now why don't we ask the guards to take me back to 
my quarters so I can build another hundred card 
houses?" 

Caesar turns to the camera. "All right. I think that 
wraps it up. So back to our regularly scheduled 
programming." 

Music plays them out, and then there's a woman 
reading a list of expected shortages in the Capitol- 
fresh fruit, solar batteries, soap. I watch her with 
uncharacteristic absorption, because I know everyone 
will be waiting for my reaction to the interview. But 
there's no way I can process it all so quickly— the joy 
of seeing Peeta alive and unharmed, his defense of my 
innocence in collaborating with the rebels, and his 
undeniable complicity with the Capitol now that he's 
called for a cease-fire. Oh, he made it sound as if he 
were condemning both sides in the war. But at this 
point, with only minor victories for the rebels, a 
cease-fire could only result in a return to our previous 
status. Or worse. 

Behind me, I can hear the accusations against Peeta 
building. The words traitor, liar, and enemy bounce 
off the walls. Since I can neither join in the rebels' 
outrage nor counter it, I decide the best thing to do is 
clear out. As I reach the door, Coin's voice rises above 
the others. "You have not been dismissed, Soldier 
Everdeen." 

One of Coin's men lays a hand on my arm. It's not an 
aggressive move, really, but after the arena, I react 
defensively to any unfamiliar touch. I jerk my arm 
free and take off running down the halls. Behind me, 
there's the sound of a scuffle, but I don't stop. My 



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mind does a quick inventory of my odd little hiding 
places, and I wind up in the supply closet, curled up 
against a crate of chalk. 

"You're alive," I whisper, pressing my palms against 
my cheeks, feeling the smile that's so wide it must 
look like a grimace. Peeta's alive. And a traitor. But at 
the moment, I don't care. Not what he says, or who he 
says it for, only that he is still capable of speech. 

After a while, the door opens and someone slips in. 
Gale slides down beside me, his nose trickling blood. 

"What happened?" I ask. 

"I got in Boggs's way," he answers with a shrug. I use 
my sleeve to wipe his nose. "Watch it!" 

I try to be gentler. Patting, not wiping. "Which one is 
he?" 

"Oh, you know. Coin's right-hand lackey. The one 
who tried to stop you." He pushes my hand away. 
"Quit! You'll bleed me to death." 

The trickle has turned to a steady stream. I give up 
on the first-aid attempts. "You fought with Boggs?" 

"No, just blocked the doorway when he tried to follow 
you. His elbow caught me in the nose," says Gale. 

"They'll probably punish you," I say. 

"Already have." He holds up his wrist. I stare at it 
uncomprehendingly. "Coin took back my 
communicuff . " 

I bite my lip, trying to remain serious. But it seems so 
ridiculous. "I'm sorry, Soldier Gale Hawthorne." 



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"Don't be, Soldier Katniss Everdeen." He grins. "I felt 
like a jerk walking around with it anyway." We both 
start laughing. "I think it was quite a demotion." 



This is one of the few good things about 13. Getting 
Gale back. With the pressure of the Capitol's 
arranged marriage between Peeta and me gone, we've 
managed to regain our friendship. He doesn't push it 
any further- -try to kiss me or talk about love. Either 
I've been too sick, or he's willing to give me space, or 
he knows it's just too cruel with Peeta in the hands of 
the Capitol. Whatever the case, I've got someone to 
tell my secrets to again. 

"Who are these people?" I say. 

"They're us. If we'd had nukes instead of a few lumps 
of coal," he answers. 

"I like to think Twelve wouldn't have abandoned the 
rest of the rebels back in the Dark Days," I say. 

"We might have. If it was that, surrender, or start a 
nuclear war," says Gale. "In a way, it's remarkable 
they survived at all." 

Maybe it's because I still have the ashes of my own 
district on my shoes, but for the first time, I give the 
people of 13 something I have withheld from them: 
credit. For staying alive against all odds. Their early 
years must have been terrible, huddled in the 
chambers beneath the ground after their city was 
bombed to dust. Population decimated, no possible 
ally to turn to for aid. Over the past seventy-five 
years, they've learned to be self-sufficient, turned 
their citizens into an army, and built a new society 
with no help from anyone. They would be even more 
powerful if that pox epidemic hadn't flattened their 
birthrate and made them so desperate for a new gene 



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pool and breeders. Maybe they are militaristic, overly 
programmed, and somewhat lacking in a sense of 
humor. They're here. And willing to take on the 
Capitol. 

"Still, it took them long enough to show up," I say. 

"It wasn't simple. They had to build up a rebel base in 
the Capitol, get some sort of underground organized 
in the districts," he says. "Then they needed someone 
to set the whole thing in motion. They needed you." 

"They needed Peeta, too, but they seem to have 
forgotten that," I say. 

Gale's expression darkens. "Peeta might have done a 
lot of damage tonight. Most of the rebels will dismiss 
what he said immediately, of course. But there are 
districts where the resistance is shakier. The cease- 
fire's clearly President Snow's idea. But it seems so 
reasonable coming out of Peeta's mouth." 

I'm afraid of Gale's answer, but I ask anyway. "Why 
do you think he said it?" 

"He might have been tortured. Or persuaded. My 
guess is he made some kind of deal to protect you. 
He'd put forth the idea of the cease-fire if Snow let 
him present you as a confused pregnant girl who had 
no idea what was going on when she was taken 
prisoner by the rebels. This way, if the districts lose, 
there's still a chance of leniency for you. If you play it 
right." I must still look perplexed because Gale 
delivers the next line very slowly. "Katniss...he's still 
trying to keep you alive." 

To keep me alive? And then I understand. The Games 
are still on. We have left the arena, but since Peeta 
and I weren't killed, his last wish to preserve my life 



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still stands. His idea is to have me lie low, remain safe 
and imprisoned, while the war plays out. Then 
neither side will really have cause to kill me. And 
Peeta? If the rebels win, it will be disastrous for him. 
If the Capitol wins, who knows? Maybe we'll both be 
allowed to live— if I play it right— to watch the Games 
go on.... 

Images flash through my mind: the spear piercing 
Rue's body in the arena, Gale hanging senseless from 
the whipping post, the corpse-littered wasteland of 
my home. And for what? For what? As my blood turns 
hot, I remember other things. My first glimpse of an 
uprising in District 8. The victors locked hand in 
hand the night before the Quarter Quell. And how it 
was no accident, my shooting that arrow into the 
force field in the arena. How badly I wanted it to lodge 
deep in the heart of my enemy. 

I spring up, upsetting a box of a hundred pencils, 
sending them scattering around the floor. 

"What is it?" Gale asks. 

"There can't be a cease-fire." I lean down, fumbling as 
I shove the sticks of dark gray graphite back into the 
box. "We can't go back." 

"I know." Gale sweeps up a handful of pencils and 
taps them on the floor into perfect alignment. 

"Whatever reason Peeta had for saying those things, 
he's wrong." The stupid sticks won't go in the box and 
I snap several in my frustration. 

"I know. Give it here. You're breaking them to bits." 
He pulls the box from my hands and refills it with 
swift, concise motions. 



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"He doesn't know what they did to Twelve. If he 
could've seen what was on the ground—" I start. 

"Katniss, I'm not arguing. If I could hit a button and 
kill every living soul working for the Capitol, I would 
do it. Without hesitation." He slides the last pencil 
into the box and flips the lid closed. "The question is, 
what are you going to do?" 

It turns out the question that's been eating away at 
me has only ever had one possible answer. But it took 
Peeta's ploy for me to recognize it. 

What am I going to do? 

I take a deep breath. My arms rise slightly— as if 
recalling the black-and-white wings Cinna gave me— 
then come to rest at my sides. 

"I'm going to be the Mockingjay." 



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Buttercup's eyes reflect the faint glow of the safety 
light over the door as he lies in the crook of Prim's 
arm, back on the job, protecting her from the night. 
She's snuggled close to my mother. Asleep, they look 
just as they did the morning of the reaping that 
landed me in my first Games. I have a bed to myself 
because I'm recuperating and because no one can 
sleep with me anyway, what with the nightmares and 
the thrashing around. 

After tossing and turning for hours, I finally accept 
that it will be a wakeful night. Under Buttercup's 
watchful eye, I tiptoe across the cold tiled floor to the 
dresser. 

The middle drawer contains my government-issued 
clothes. Everyone wears the same gray pants and 
shirt, the shirt tucked in at the waist. Underneath the 
clothes, I keep the few items I had on me when I was 
lifted from the arena. My mockingjay pin. Peeta's 
token, the gold locket with photos of my mother and 
Prim and Gale inside. A silver parachute that holds a 
spile for tapping trees, and the pearl Peeta gave me a 
few hours before I blew out the force field. District 13 
confiscated my tube of skin ointment for use in the 
hospital, and my bow and arrows because only 
guards have clearance to carry weapons. They're in 
safekeeping in the armory. 

I feel around for the parachute and slide my fingers 
inside until they close around the pearl. I sit back on 
my bed cross-legged and find myself rubbing the 
smooth iridescent surface of the pearl back and forth 



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against my lips. For some reason, it's soothing. A cool 
kiss from the giver himself. 

"Katniss?" Prim whispers. She's awake, peering at me 
through the darkness. "What's wrong?" 

"Nothing. Just a bad dream. Go back to sleep." It's 
automatic. Shutting Prim and my mother out of 
things to shield them. 

Careful not to rouse my mother, Prim eases herself 
from the bed, scoops up Buttercup, and sits beside 
me. She touches the hand that has curled around the 
pearl. "You're cold." Taking a spare blanket from the 
foot of the bed, she wraps it around all three of us, 
enveloping me in her warmth and Buttercup's furry 
heat as well. "You could tell me, you know. I'm good 
at keeping secrets. Even from Mother." 

She's really gone, then. The little girl with the back of 
her shirt sticking out like a duck tail, the one who 
needed help reaching the dishes, and who begged to 
see the frosted cakes in the bakery window. Time and 
tragedy have forced her to grow too quickly, at least 
for my taste, into a young woman who stitches 
bleeding wounds and knows our mother can hear 
only so much. 

"Tomorrow morning, I'm going to agree to be the 
Mockingj ay," I tell her. 

"Because you want to or because you feel forced into 
it?" she asks. 

I laugh a little. "Both, I guess. No, I want to. I have to, 
if it will help the rebels defeat Snow." I squeeze the 
pearl more tightly in my fist. "It's just... Peeta. I'm 
afraid if we do win, the rebels will execute him as a 
traitor." 



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Prim thinks this over. "Katniss, I don't think you 
understand how important you are to the cause. 
Important people usually get what they want. If you 
want to keep Peeta safe from the rebels, you can." 

I guess I'm important. They went to a lot of trouble to 
rescue me. They took me to 12. "You mean... I could 
demand that they give Peeta immunity? And they'd 
have to agree to it?" 

"I think you could demand almost anything and 
they'd have to agree to it." Prim wrinkles her brow. 
"Only how do you know they'll keep their word?" 

I remember all of the lies Haymitch told Peeta and me 
to get us to do what he wanted. What's to keep the 
rebels from reneging on the deal? A verbal promise 
behind closed doors, even a statement written on 
paper— these could easily evaporate after the war. 
Their existence or validity denied. Any witnesses in 
Command will be worthless. In fact, they'd probably 
be the ones writing out Peeta's death warrant. I'll 
need a much larger pool of witnesses. I'll need 
everyone I can get. 

"It will have to be public," I say. Buttercup gives a 
flick of his tail that I take as agreement. "I'll make 
Coin announce it in front of the entire population of 
Thirteen." 

Prim smiles. "Oh, that's good. It's not a guarantee, 
but it will be much harder for them to back out of 
their promise." 

I feel the kind of relief that follows an actual solution. 
"I should wake you up more often, little duck." 

"I wish you would," says Prim. She gives me a kiss. 
"Try and sleep now, all right?" And I do. 



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In the morning, I see that 7:00— Breakfast is directly 
followed by 7:30— Command, which is fine since I may 
as well start the ball rolling. At the dining hall, I flash 
my schedule, which includes some kind of ID 
number, in front of a sensor. As I slide my tray along 
the metal shelf before the vats of food, I see breakfast 
is its usual dependable self— a bowl of hot grain, a 
cup of milk, and a small scoop of fruit or vegetables. 
Today, mashed turnips. All of it comes from 13's 
underground farms. I sit at the table assigned to the 
Everdeens and the Hawthornes and some other 
refugees, and shovel my food down, wishing for 
seconds, but there are never seconds here. They have 
nutrition down to a science. You leave with enough 
calories to take you to the next meal, no more, no 
less. Serving size is based on your age, height, body 
type, health, and amount of physical labor required 
by your schedule. The people from 12 are already 
getting slightly larger portions than the natives of 13 
in an effort to bring us up to weight. I guess bony 
soldiers tire too quickly. It's working, though. In just 
a month, we're starting to look healthier, particularly 
the kids. 

Gale sets his tray beside me and I try not to stare at 
his turnips too pathetically, because I really want 
more, and he's already too quick to slip me his food. 
Even though I turn my attention to neatly folding my 
napkin, a spoonful of turnips slops into my bowl. 

"You've got to stop that," I say. But since I'm already 
scooping up the stuff, it's not too convincing. "Really. 
It's probably illegal or something." They have very 
strict rules about food. For instance, if you don't 
finish something and want to save it for later, you 
can't take it from the dining hall. Apparently, in the 
early days, there was some incident of food hoarding. 
For a couple of people like Gale and me, who've been 
in charge of our families' food supply for years, it 
34 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



doesn't sit well. We know how to be hungry, but not 
how to be told how to handle what provisions we 
have. In some ways, District 13 is even more 
controlling than the Capitol. 

"What can they do? They've already got my 
communicuff," says Gale. 

As I scrape my bowl clean, I have an inspiration. 
"Hey, maybe I should make that a condition of being 
the Mockingjay." 

"That I can feed you turnips?" he says. 

"No, that we can hunt." That gets his attention. "We'd 
have to give everything to the kitchen. But still, we 
could..." I don't have to finish because he knows. We 
could be aboveground. Out in the woods. We could be 
ourselves again. 

"Do it," he says. "Now's the time. You could ask for 
the moon and they'd have to find some way to get it." 

He doesn't know that I'm already asking for the moon 
by demanding they spare Peeta's life. Before I can 
decide whether or not to tell him, a bell signals the 
end of our eating shift. The thought of facing Coin 
alone makes me nervous. "What are you scheduled 
for?" 

Gale checks his arm. "Nuclear History class. Where, 
by the way, your absence has been noted." 

"I have to go to Command. Come with me?" I ask. 

"All right. But they might throw me out after 
yesterday." As we go to drop off our trays, he says, 
"You know, you better put Buttercup on your list of 



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demands, too. I don't think the concept of useless 
pets is well known here." 



"Oh, they'll find him a job. Tattoo it on his paw every 
morning," I say. But I make a mental note to include 
him for Prim's sake. 

By the time we get to Command, Coin, Plutarch, and 
all their people have already assembled. The sight of 
Gale raises some eyebrows, but no one throws him 
out. My mental notes have become too jumbled, so I 
ask for a piece of paper and a pencil right off. My 
apparent interest in the proceedings— the first I've 
shown since I've been here— takes them by surprise. 
Several looks are exchanged. Probably they had some 
extra-special lecture planned for me. But instead, 
Coin personally hands me the supplies, and everyone 
waits in silence while I sit at the table and scrawl out 
my list. Buttercup. Hunting. Peeta's immunity. 
Announced in public. 

This is it. Probably my only chance to bargain. Think. 
What else do you want? I feel him, standing at my 
shoulder. Gale, I add to the list. I don't think I can do 
this without him. 

The headache's coming on and my thoughts begin to 
tangle. I shut my eyes and start to recite silently. 

My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years 
old. My home is District 12.1 was in the Hunger 
Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me. Peeta was 
taken prisoner. He is alive. He is a traitor but alive. I 
have to keep him alive.... 

The list. It still seems too small. I should try to think 
bigger, beyond our current situation where I am of 
the utmost importance, to the future where I may be 
worth nothing. Shouldn't I be asking for more? For 



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my family? For the remainder of my people? My skin 
itches with the ashes of the dead. I feel the sickening 
impact of the skull against my shoe. The scent of 
blood and roses stings my nose. 

The pencil moves across the page on its own. I open 
my eyes and see the wobbly letters. I KILL SNOW. If 
he's captured, I want the privilege. 

Plutarch gives a discreet cough. "About done there?" I 
glance up and notice the clock. I've been sitting here 
for twenty minutes. Finnick isn't the only one with 
attention problems. 

"Yeah," I say. My voice sounds hoarse, so I clear my 
throat. "Yeah, so this is the deal. I'll be your 
Mockingjay." 

I wait so they can make their sounds of relief, 
congratulate, slap one another on the back. Coin 
stays as impassive as ever, watching me, 
unimpressed. 

"But I have some conditions." I smooth out the list 
and begin. "My family gets to keep our cat." My tiniest 
request sets off an argument. The Capitol rebels see 
this as a nonissue— of course, I can keep my pet- 
while those from 13 spell out what extreme difficulties 
this presents. Finally it's worked out that we'll be 
moved to the top level, which has the luxury of an 
eight-inch window aboveground. Buttercup may come 
and go to do his business. He will be expected to feed 
himself. If he misses curfew, he will be locked out. If 
he causes any security problems, he'll be shot 
immediately. 

That sounds okay. Not so different from how he's 
been living since we left. Except for the shooting part. 



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If he looks too thin, I can slip him a few entrails, 
provided my next request is allowed. 

"I want to hunt. With Gale. Out in the woods," I say. 
This gives everyone pause. 

"We won't go far. We'll use our own bows. You can 
have the meat for the kitchen," adds Gale. 

I hurry on before they can say no. "It's just... I can't 
breathe shut up here like a... I would get better, faster, 
if... I could hunt." 

Plutarch begins to explain the drawbacks here— the 
dangers, the extra security, the risk of injury— but 
Coin cuts him off. "No. Let them. Give them two hours 
a day, deducted from their training time. A quarter- 
mile radius. With communication units and tracker 
anklets. What's next?" 

I skim my list. "Gale. I'll need him with me to do this." 

"With you how? Off camera? By your side at all times? 
Do you want him presented as your new lover?" Coin 
asks. 

She hasn't said this with any particular malice— quite 
the contrary, her words are very matter-of-fact. But 
my mouth still drops open in shock. "What?" 

"I think we should continue the current romance. A 
quick defection from Peeta could cause the audience 
to lose sympathy for her," says Plutarch. "Especially 
since they think she's pregnant with his child." 

"Agreed. So, on-screen, Gale can simply be portrayed 
as a fellow rebel. Is that all right?" says Coin. I just 
stare at her. She repeats herself impatiently. "For 
Gale. Will that be sufficient?" 



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"We can always work him in as your cousin," says 
Fulvia. 

"We're not cousins," Gale and I say together. 

"Right, but we should probably keep that up for 
appearances' sake on camera," says Plutarch. "Off 
camera, he's all yours. Anything else?" 

I'm rattled by the turn in the conversation. The 
implications that I could so readily dispose of Peeta, 
that I'm in love with Gale, that the whole thing has 
been an act. My cheeks begin to burn. The very 
notion that I'm devoting any thought to who I want 
presented as my lover, given our current 
circumstances, is demeaning. I let my anger propel 
me into my greatest demand. "When the war is over, if 
we've won, Peeta will be pardoned." 

Dead silence. I feel Gale's body tense. I guess I should 
have told him before, but I wasn't sure how he'd 
respond. Not when it involved Peeta. 

"No form of punishment will be inflicted," I continue. 
A new thought occurs to me. "The same goes for the 
other captured tributes, Johanna and Enobaria." 
Frankly, I don't care about Enobaria, the vicious 
District 2 tribute. In fact, I dislike her, but it seems 
wrong to leave her out. 

"No," says Coin flatly. 

"Yes," I shoot back. "It's not their fault you abandoned 
them in the arena. Who knows what the Capitol's 
doing to them?" 

"They'll be tried with other war criminals and treated 
as the tribunal sees fit," she says. 



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"They'll be granted immunity!" I feel myself rising from 
my chair, my voice full and resonant. "You will 
personally pledge this in front of the entire population 
of District Thirteen and the remainder of Twelve. 
Soon. Today. It will be recorded for future 
generations. You will hold yourself and your 
government responsible for their safety, or you'll find 
yourself another Mockingjay!" 

My words hang in the air for a long moment. 

"That's her!" I hear Fulvia hiss to Plutarch. "Right 
there. With the costume, gunfire in the background, 
just a hint of smoke." 

"Yes, that's what we want," says Plutarch under his 
breath. 

I want to glare at them, but I feel it would be a 
mistake to turn my attention from Coin. I can see her 
tallying the cost of my ultimatum, weighing it against 
my possible worth. 

"What do you say, President?" asks Plutarch. "You 
could issue an official pardon, given the 
circumstances. The boy... he's not even of age." 

"All right," Coin says finally. "But you'd better 
perform." 

"I'll perform when you've made the announcement," I 
say. 

"Call a national security assembly during Reflection 
today," she orders. "I'll make the announcement then. 
Is there anything left on your list, Katniss?" 



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My paper's crumpled into a ball in my right fist. I 
flatten the sheet against the table and read the 
rickety letters. "Just one more thing. I kill Snow." 

For the first time ever, I see the hint of a smile on the 
president's lips. "When the time comes, I'll flip you for 
it." 

Maybe she's right. I certainly don't have the sole claim 
against Snow's life. And I think I can count on her 
getting the job done. "Fair enough." 

Coin's eyes have flickered to her arm, the clock. She, 
too, has a schedule to adhere to. "I'll leave her in your 
hands, then, Plutarch." She exits the room, followed 
by her team, leaving only Plutarch, Fulvia, Gale, and 
myself. 

"Excellent. Excellent." Plutarch sinks down, elbows on 
the table, rubbing his eyes. "You know what I miss? 
More than anything? Coffee. I ask you, would it be so 
unthinkable to have something to wash down the 
gruel and turnips?" 

"We didn't think it would be quite so rigid here," 
Fulvia explains to us as she massages Plutarch's 
shoulders. "Not in the higher ranks." 

"Or at least there'd be the option of a little side 
action," says Plutarch. "I mean, even Twelve had a 
black market, right?" 

"Yeah, the Hob," says Gale. "It's where we traded." 

"There, you see? And look how moral you two are! 
Virtually incorruptible." Plutarch sighs. "Oh, well, 
wars don't last forever. So, glad to have you on the 
team." He reaches a hand out to the side, where 
Fulvia is already extending a large sketchbook bound 



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in black leather. "You know in general what we're 
asking of you, Katniss. I'm aware you have mixed 
feelings about participating. I hope this will help." 

Plutarch slides the sketchbook across to me. For a 
moment, I look at it suspiciously. Then curiosity gets 
the better of me. I open the cover to find a picture of 
myself, standing straight and strong, in a black 
uniform. Only one person could have designed the 
outfit, at first glance utterly utilitarian, at second a 
work of art. The swoop of the helmet, the curve to the 
breastplate, the slight fullness of the sleeves that 
allows the white folds under the arms to show. In his 
hands, I am again a mockingjay. 

"Cinna," I whisper. 

"Yes. He made me promise not to show you this book 
until you'd decided to be the Mockingjay on your own. 
Believe me, I was very tempted," says Plutarch. "Go 
on. Flip through." 

I turn the pages slowly, seeing each detail of the 
uniform. The carefully tailored layers of body armor, 
the hidden weapons in the boots and belt, the special 
reinforcements over my heart. On the final page, 
under a sketch of my mockingjay pin, Cinna' s written, 
I'm still betting on you. 

"When did he..." My voice fails me. 

"Let's see. Well, after the Quarter Quell 
announcement. A few weeks before the Games 
maybe? There are not only the sketches. We have 
your uniforms. Oh, and Beetee's got something really 
special waiting for you down in the armory. I won't 
spoil it by hinting," says Plutarch. 



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"You're going to be the best-dressed rebel in history," 
says Gale with a smile. Suddenly, I realize he's been 
holding out on me. Like Cinna, he's wanted me to 
make this decision all along. 

"Our plan is to launch an Airtime Assault," says 
Plutarch. "To make a series of what we call propos— 
which is short for 'propaganda spots'— featuring you, 
and broadcast them to the entire population of 
Panem." 

"How? The Capitol has sole control of the broadcasts," 
says Gale. 

"But we have Beetee. About ten years ago, he 
essentially redesigned the underground network that 
transmits all the programming. He thinks there's a 
reasonable chance it can be done. Of course, we'll 
need something to air. So, Katniss, the studio awaits 
your pleasure." Plutarch turns to his assistant. 
"Fulvia?" 

"Plutarch and I have been talking about how on earth 
we can pull this off. We think that it might be best to 
build you, our rebel leader, from the outside... in. That 
is to say, let's find the most stunning Mockingjay look 
possible, and then work your personality up to 
deserving it!" she says brightly. 

"You already have her uniform," says Gale. 

"Yes, but is she scarred and bloody? Is she glowing 
with the fire of rebellion? Just how grimy can we 
make her without disgusting people? At any rate, she 
has to be something. I mean, obviously this"— Fulvia 
moves in on me quickly, framing my face with her 
hands— "won't cut it." I jerk my head back reflexively 
but she's already busy gathering her things. "So, with 



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that in mind, we have another little surprise for you. 
Come, come." 

Fulvia gives us a wave, and Gale and I follow her and 
Plutarch out into the hall. 

"So well intended, and yet so insulting," Gale 
whispers in my ear. 

"Welcome to the Capitol," I mouth back. But Fulvia' s 
words have no effect on me. I wrap my arms tightly 
around the sketchbook and allow myself to feel 
hopeful. This must be the right decision. If Cinna 
wanted it. 

We board an elevator, and Plutarch checks his notes. 
"Let's see. It's Compartment Three-Nine-Oh-Eight." 
He presses a button marked 39, but nothing 
happens. 

"You must have to key it," says Fulvia. 

Plutarch pulls a key attached to a thin chain from 
under his shirt and inserts it into a slot I hadn't 
noticed before. The doors slide shut. "Ah, there we 
are." 

The elevator descends ten, twenty, thirty-plus levels, 
farther down than I even knew District 13 went. It 
opens on a wide white corridor lined with red doors, 
which look almost decorative compared to the gray 
ones on the upper floors. Each is plainly marked with 
a number. 3901, 3902, 3903... 

As we step out, I glance behind me to watch the 
elevator close and see a metallic grate slide into place 
over the regular doors. When I turn, a guard has 
materialized from one of the rooms at the far end of 



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the corridor. A door swings silently shut behind him 
as he strides toward us. 



Plutarch moves to meet him, raising a hand in 
greeting, and the rest of us follow behind him. 
Something feels very wrong down here. It's more than 
the reinforced elevator, or the claustrophobia of being 
so far underground, or the caustic smell of antiseptic. 
One look at Gale's face and I can tell he senses it as 
well. 

"Good morning, we were just looking for—" Plutarch 
begins. 

"You have the wrong floor," says the guard abruptly. 

"Really?" Plutarch double-checks his notes. "I've got 
Three-Nine-Oh-Eight written right here. I wonder if 
you could just give a call up to—" 

"I'm afraid I have to ask you to leave now. Assignment 
discrepancies can be addressed at the Head Office," 
says the guard. 

It's right ahead of us. Compartment 3908. Just a few 
steps away. The door— in fact, all the doors— seem 
incomplete. No knobs. They must swing free on 
hinges like the one the guard appeared through. 

"Where is that again?" asks Fulvia. 

"You'll find the Head Office on Level Seven," says the 
guard, extending his arms to corral us back to the 
elevator. 

From behind door 3908 comes a sound. Just a tiny 
whimper. Like something a cowed dog might make to 
avoid being struck, only all too human and familiar. 
My eyes meet Gale's for just a moment, but it's long 



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enough for two people who operate the way we do. I 
let Cinna's sketchbook fall at the guard's feet with a 
loud bang. A second after he leans down to retrieve it, 
Gale leans down, too, intentionally bumping heads. 
"Oh, I'm sorry," he says with a light laugh, catching 
the guard's arms as if to steady himself, turning him 
slightly away from me. 

That's my chance. I dart around the distracted guard, 
push open the door marked 3908, and find them. 
Half-naked, bruised, and shackled to the wall. 

My prep team. 



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The stink of unwashed bodies, stale urine, and 
infection breaks through the cloud of antiseptic. The 
three figures are only just recognizable by their most 
striking fashion choices: Venia's gold facial tattoos. 
Flavius's orange corkscrew curls. Octavia's light 
evergreen skin, which now hangs too loosely, as if her 
body were a slowly deflating balloon. 

On seeing me, Flavius and Octavia shrink back 
against the tiled walls like they're anticipating an 
attack, even though I have never hurt them. Unkind 
thoughts were my worst offense against them, and 
those I kept to myself, so why do they recoil? 

The guard's ordering me out, but by the shuffling that 
follows, I know Gale has somehow detained him. For 
answers, I cross to Venia, who was always the 
strongest. I crouch down and take her icy hands, 
which clutch mine like vises. 

"What happened, Venia?" I ask. "What are you doing 
here?" 

"They took us. From the Capitol," she says hoarsely. 

Plutarch enters behind me. "What on earth is going 
on?" 

"Who took you?" I press her. 

"People," she says vaguely. "The night you broke out." 



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"We thought it might be comforting for you to have 
your regular team," Plutarch says behind me. "Cinna 
requested it." 

"Cinna requested this?" I snarl at him. Because if 
there's one thing I know, it's that Cinna would never 
have approved the abuse of these three, who he 
managed with gentleness and patience. "Why are they 
being treated like criminals?" 

"I honestly don't know." There's something in his 
voice that makes me believe him, and the pallor on 
Fulvia's face confirms it. Plutarch turns to the guard, 
who's just appeared in the doorway with Gale right 
behind him. "I was only told they were being confined. 
Why are they being punished?" 

"For stealing food. We had to restrain them after an 
altercation over some bread," says the guard. 

Venia's brows come together as if she's still trying to 
make sense of it. "No one would tell us anything. We 
were so hungry. It was just one slice she took." 

Octavia begins to sob, muffling the sound in her 
ragged tunic. I think of how, the first time I survived 
the arena, Octavia sneaked me a roll under the table 
because she couldn't bear my hunger. I crawl across 
to her shaking form. "Octavia?" I touch her and she 
flinches. "Octavia? It's going to be all right. I'll get you 
out of here, okay?" 

"This seems extreme," says Plutarch. 

"It's because they took a slice of bread?" asks Gale. 

"There were repeated infractions leading up to that. 
They were warned. Still they took more bread." The 



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guard pauses a moment, as if puzzled by our density. 
"You can't take bread." 

I can't get Octavia to uncover her face, but she lifts it 
slightly. The shackles on her wrists shift down a few 
inches, revealing raw sores beneath them. "I'm 
bringing you to my mother." I address the guard. 
"Unchain them." 

The guard shakes his head. "It's not authorized." 
"Unchain them! Now!" I yell. 

This breaks his composure. Average citizens don't 
address him this way. "I have no release orders. And 
you have no authority to—" 

"Do it on my authority," says Plutarch. "We came to 
collect these three anyway. They're needed for Special 
Defense. I'll take full responsibility." 

The guard leaves to make a call. He returns with a set 
of keys. The preps have been forced into cramped 
body positions for so long that even once the shackles 
are removed, they have trouble walking. Gale, 
Plutarch, and I have to help them. Flavius's foot 
catches on a metal grate over a circular opening in 
the floor, and my stomach contracts when I think of 
why a room would need a drain. The stains of human 
misery that must have been hosed off these white 
tiles... 

In the hospital, I find my mother, the only one I trust 
to care for them. It takes her a minute to place the 
three, given their current condition, but already she 
wears a look of consternation. And I know it's not a 
result of seeing abused bodies, because they were her 
daily fare in District 12, but the realization that this 
sort of thing goes on in 13 as well. 



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My mother was welcomed into the hospital, but she's 
viewed as more of a nurse than a doctor, despite her 
lifetime of healing. Still, no one interferes when she 
guides the trio into an examination room to assess 
their injuries. I plant myself on a bench in the hall 
outside the hospital entrance, waiting to hear her 
verdict. She will be able to read in their bodies the 
pain inflicted upon them. 

Gale sits next to me and puts an arm around my 
shoulder. "She'll fix them up." I give a nod, wondering 
if he's thinking about his own brutal flogging back in 
12. 

Plutarch and Fulvia take the bench across from us 
but don't offer any comments on the state of my prep 
team. If they had no knowledge of the mistreatment, 
then what do they make of this move on President 
Coin's part? I decide to help them out. 

"I guess we've all been put on notice," I say. 

"What? No. What do you mean?" asks Fulvia. 

"Punishing my prep team's a warning," I tell her. "Not 
just to me. But to you, too. About who's really in 
control and what happens if she's not obeyed. If you 
had any delusions about having power, I'd let them go 
now. Apparently, a Capitol pedigree is no protection 
here. Maybe it's even a liability." 

"There is no comparison between Plutarch, who 
masterminded the rebel breakout, and those three 
beauticians," says Fulvia icily. 

I shrug. "If you say so, Fulvia. But what would 
happen if you got on Coin's bad side? My prep team 
was kidnapped. They can at least hope to one day 



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return to the Capitol. Gale and I can live in the 
woods. But you? Where would you two run?" 

"Perhaps we're a little more necessary to the war 
effort than you give us credit for," says Plutarch, 
unconcerned. 

"Of course you are. The tributes were necessary to the 
Games, too. Until they weren't," I say. "And then we 
were very disposable— right, Plutarch?" 

That ends the conversation. We wait in silence until 
my mother finds us. "They'll be all right," she reports. 
"No permanent physical injuries." 

"Good. Splendid," says Plutarch. "How soon can they 
be put to work?" 

"Probably tomorrow," she answers. "You'll have to 
expect some emotional instability, after what they've 
been through. They were particularly ill prepared, 
coming from their life in the Capitol." 

"Weren't we all?" says Plutarch. 

Either because the prep team's incapacitated or I'm 
too on edge, Plutarch releases me from Mockingjay 
duties for the rest of the day. Gale and I head down to 
lunch, where we're served bean and onion stew, a 
thick slice of bread, and a cup of water. After Venia's 
story, the bread sticks in my throat, so I slide the rest 
of it onto Gale's tray. Neither of us speaks much 
during lunch, but when our bowls are clean, Gale 
pulls up his sleeve, revealing his schedule. "I've got 
training next." 

I tug up my sleeve and hold my arm next to his. "Me, 
too." I remember that training equals hunting now. 



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My eagerness to escape into the woods, if only for two 
hours, overrides my current concerns. An immersion 
into greenery and sunlight will surely help me sort 
out my thoughts. Once off the main corridors, Gale 
and I race like schoolchildren for the armory, and by 
the time we arrive, I'm breathless and dizzy. A 
reminder that I'm not fully recovered. The guards 
provide our old weapons, as well as knives and a 
burlap sack that's meant for a game bag. I tolerate 
having the tracker clamped to my ankle, try to look as 
if I'm listening when they explain how to use the 
handheld communicator. The only thing that sticks in 
my head is that it has a clock, and we must be back 
inside 13 by the designated hour or our hunting 
privileges will be revoked. This is one rule I think I 
will make an effort to abide. 

We go outside into the large, fenced-in training area 
beside the woods. Guards open the well-oiled gates 
without comment. We would be hard-pressed to get 
past this fence on our own— thirty feet high and 
always buzzing with electricity, topped with razor- 
sharp curls of steel. We move through the woods until 
the view of the fence has been obscured. In a small 
clearing, we pause and drop back our heads to bask 
in the sunlight. I turn in a circle, my arms extended 
at my sides, revolving slowly so as not to set the world 
spinning. 

The lack of rain I saw in 12 has damaged the plants 
here as well, leaving some with brittle leaves, building 
a crunchy carpet under our feet. We take off our 
shoes. Mine don't fit right anyway, since in the spirit 
of waste-not-want-not that rules 13, I was issued a 
pair someone had outgrown. Apparently, one of us 
walks funny, because they're broken in all wrong. 

We hunt, like in the old days. Silent, needing no 
words to communicate, because here in the woods we 



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move as two parts of one being. Anticipating each 
other's movements, watching each other's backs. How 
long has it been? Eight months? Nine? Since we had 
this freedom? It's not exactly the same, given all that's 
happened and the trackers on our ankles and the fact 
that I have to rest so often. But it's about as close to 
happiness as I think I can currently get. 

The animals here are not nearly suspicious enough. 
That extra moment it takes to place our unfamiliar 
scent means their death. In an hour and a half, we've 
got a mixed dozen— rabbits, squirrels, and turkeys— 
and decide to knock off to spend the remaining time 
by a pond that must be fed by an underground 
spring, since the water's cool and sweet. 

When Gale offers to clean the game, I don't object. I 
stick a few mint leaves on my tongue, close my eyes, 
and lean back against a rock, soaking in the sounds, 
letting the scorching afternoon sun burn my skin, 
almost at peace until Gale's voice interrupts me. 
"Katniss, why do you care so much about your prep 
team?" 

I open my eyes to see if he's joking, but he's frowning 
down at the rabbit he's skinning. "Why shouldn't I?" 

"Hm. Let's see. Because they've spent the last year 
prettying you up for slaughter?" he suggests. 

"It's more complicated than that. I know them. 
They're not evil or cruel. They're not even smart. 
Hurting them, it's like hurting children. They don't 
see... I mean, they don't know..." I get knotted up in 
my words. 

"They don't know what, Katniss?" he says. "That 
tributes— who are the actual children involved here, 
not your trio of freaks— are forced to fight to the 
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death? That you were going into that arena for 
people's amusement? Was that a big secret in the 
Capitol?" 

"No. But they don't view it the way we do," I say. 
"They're raised on it and—" 

"Are you actually defending them?" He slips the skin 
from the rabbit in one quick move. 

That stings, because, in fact, I am, and it's ridiculous. 
I struggle to find a logical position. "I guess I'm 
defending anyone who's treated like that for taking a 
slice of bread. Maybe it reminds me too much of what 
happened to you over a turkey!" 

Still, he's right. It does seem strange, my level of 
concern over the prep team. I should hate them and 
want to see them strung up. But they're so clueless, 
and they belonged to Cinna, and he was on my side, 
right? 

"I'm not looking for a fight," Gale says. "But I don't 
think Coin was sending you some big message by 
punishing them for breaking the rules here. She 
probably thought you'd see it as a favor." He stuffs 
the rabbit in the sack and rises. "We better get going 
if we want to make it back on time." 

I ignore his offer of a hand up and get to my feet 
unsteadily. "Fine." Neither of us talks on the way 
back, but once we're inside the gate, I think of 
something else. "During the Quarter Quell, Octavia 
and Flavius had to quit because they couldn't stop 
crying over me going back in. And Venia could barely 
say good-bye." 

"I'll try and keep that in mind as they... remake you," 
says Gale. 



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"Do," I say. 



We hand the meat over to Greasy Sae in the kitchen. 
She likes District 13 well enough, even though she 
thinks the cooks are somewhat lacking in 
imagination. But a woman who came up with a 
palatable wild dog and rhubarb stew is bound to feel 
as if her hands are tied here. 

Exhausted from hunting and my lack of sleep, I go 
back to my compartment to find it stripped bare, only 
to remember we've been moved because of Buttercup. 
I make my way up to the top floor and find 
Compartment E. It looks exactly like Compartment 
307, except for the window— two feet wide, eight 
inches high- -centered at the top of the outside wall. 
There's a heavy metal plate that fastens over it, but 
right now it's propped open, and a certain cat is 
nowhere to be seen. I stretch out on my bed, and a 
shaft of afternoon sunlight plays on my face. The next 
thing I know, my sister is waking me for 18:00— 
Reflection. 

Prim tells me they've been announcing the assembly 
since lunch. The entire population, except those 
needed for essential jobs, is required to attend. We 
follow directions to the Collective, a huge room that 
easily holds the thousands who show up. You can tell 
it was built for a larger gathering, and perhaps it held 
one before the pox epidemic. Prim quietly points out 
the widespread fallout from that disaster— the pox 
scars on people's bodies, the slightly disfigured 
children. "They've suffered a lot here," she says. 

After this morning, I'm in no mood to feel sorry for 13. 
"No more than we did in Twelve," I say. I see my 
mother lead in a group of mobile patients, still 
wearing their hospital nightgowns and robes. Finnick 
stands among them, looking dazed but gorgeous. In 



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his hands he holds a piece of thin rope, less than a 
foot in length, too short for even him to fashion into a 
usable noose. His fingers move rapidly, automatically 
tying and unraveling various knots as he gazes about. 
Probably part of his therapy. I cross to him and say, 
"Hey, Finnick." He doesn't seem to notice, so I nudge 
him to get his attention. "Finnick! How are you 
doing?" 

"Katniss," he says, gripping my hand. Relieved to see 
a familiar face, I think. "Why are we meeting here?" 

"I told Coin I'd be her Mockingjay. But I made her 
promise to give the other tributes immunity if the 
rebels won," I tell him. "In public, so there are plenty 
of witnesses." 

"Oh. Good. Because I worry about that with Annie. 
That she'll say something that could be construed as 
traitorous without knowing it," says Finnick. 

Annie. Uh-oh. Totally forgot her. "Don't worry, I took 
care of it." I give Finnick's hand a squeeze and head 
straight for the podium at the front of the room. Coin, 
who is glancing over her statement, raises her 
eyebrows at me. "I need you to add Annie Cresta to 
the immunity list," I tell her. 

The president frowns slightly. "Who's that?" 

"She's Finnick Odair's— " What? I don't really know 
what to call her. "She's Finnick's friend. From District 
Four. Another victor. She was arrested and taken to 
the Capitol when the arena blew up." 

"Oh, the mad girl. That's not really necessary," she 
says. "We don't make a habit of punishing anyone 
that frail." 



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I think of the scene I walked in on this morning. Of 
Octavia huddled against the wall. Of how Coin and I 
must have vastly different definitions of frailty. But I 
only say, "No? Then it shouldn't be a problem to add 
Annie." 

"All right," says the president, penciling in Annie's 
name. "Do you want to be up here with me for the 
announcement?" I shake my head. "I didn't think so. 
Better hurry and lose yourself in the crowd. I'm about 
to begin." I make my way back to Finnick. 

Words are another thing not wasted in 13. Coin calls 
the audience to attention and tells them I have 
consented to be the Mockingjay, provided the other 
victors— Peeta, Johanna, Enobaria, and Annie— will be 
granted full pardon for any damage they do to the 
rebel cause. In the rumbling of the crowd, I hear the 
dissent. I suppose no one doubted I would want to be 
the Mockingjay. So naming a price— one that spares 
possible enemies— angers them. I stand indifferent to 
the hostile looks thrown my way. 

The president allows a few moments of unrest, and 
then continues in her brisk fashion. Only now the 
words coming out of her mouth are news to me. "But 
in return for this unprecedented request, Soldier 
Everdeen has promised to devote herself to our cause. 
It follows that any deviance from her mission, in 
either motive or deed, will be viewed as a break in this 
agreement. The immunity would be terminated and 
the fate of the four victors determined by the law of 
District Thirteen. As would her own. Thank you." 

In other words, I step out of line and we're all dead. 



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Another force to contend with. Another power player 
who has decided to use me as a piece in her games, 
although things never seem to go according to plan. 
First there were the Gamemakers, making me their 
star and then scrambling to recover from that handful 
of poisonous berries. Then President Snow, trying to 
use me to put out the flames of rebellion, only to have 
my every move become inflammatory. Next, the rebels 
ensnaring me in the metal claw that lifted me from 
the arena, designating me to be their Mockingjay, and 
then having to recover from the shock that I might 
not want the wings. And now Coin, with her fistful of 
precious nukes and her well-oiled machine of a 
district, finding it's even harder to groom a 
Mockingjay than to catch one. But she has been the 
quickest to determine that I have an agenda of my 
own and am therefore not to be trusted. She has been 
the first to publicly brand me as a threat. 

I run my fingers through the thick layer of bubbles in 
my tub. Cleaning me up is just a preliminary step to 
determining my new look. With my acid-damaged 
hair, sunburned skin, and ugly scars, the prep team 
has to make me pretty and then damage, burn, and 
scar me in a more attractive way. 

"Remake her to Beauty Base Zero," Fulvia ordered 
first thing this morning. "We'll work from there." 
Beauty Base Zero turns out to be what a person 
would look like if they stepped out of bed looking 
flawless but natural. It means my nails are perfectly 
shaped but not polished. My hair soft and shiny but 
not styled. My skin smooth and clear but not painted. 
Wax the body hair and erase the dark circles, but 



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don't make any noticeable enhancements. I suppose 
Cinna gave the same instructions the first day I 
arrived as a tribute in the Capitol. Only that was 
different, since I was a contestant. As a rebel, I 
thought I'd get to look more like myself. But it seems 
a televised rebel has her own standards to live up to. 

After I rinse the lather from my body, I turn to find 
Octavia waiting with a towel. She is so altered from 
the woman I knew in the Capitol, stripped of the 
gaudy clothing, the heavy makeup, the dyes and 
jewelry and knickknacks she adorned her hair with. I 
remember how one day she showed up with bright 
pink tresses studded with blinking colored lights 
shaped like mice. She told me she had several mice at 
home as pets. The thought repulsed me at the time, 
since we consider mice vermin, unless cooked. But 
perhaps Octavia liked them because they were small, 
soft, and squeaky. Like her. As she pats me dry, I try 
to become acquainted with the District 13 Octavia. 
Her real hair turns out to be a nice auburn. Her face 
is ordinary but has an undeniable sweetness. She's 
younger than I thought. Maybe early twenties. Devoid 
of the three-inch decorative nails, her fingers appear 
almost stubby, and they can't stop trembling. I want 
to tell her it's okay, that I'll see that Coin never hurts 
her again. But the multicolored bruises flowering 
under her green skin only remind me how impotent I 
am. 

Flavius, too, appears washed out without his purple 
lipstick and bright clothes. He's managed to get his 
orange ringlets back in some sort of order, though. 
It's Venia who's the least changed. Her aqua hair lies 
flat instead of in spikes and you can see the roots 
growing in gray. However, the tattoos were always her 
most striking characteristic, and they're as golden 
and shocking as ever. She comes and takes the towel 
from Octavia' s hands. 



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"Katniss is not going to hurt us," she says quietly but 
firmly to Octavia. "Katniss did not even know we were 
here. Things will be better now." Octavia gives a slight 
nod but doesn't dare look me in the eye. 

It's no simple job getting me back to Beauty Base 
Zero, even with the elaborate arsenal of products, 
tools, and gadgets Plutarch had the foresight to bring 
from the Capitol. My preps do pretty well until they 
try to address the spot on my arm where Johanna 
dug out the tracker. None of the medical team was 
focusing on looks when they patched up the gaping 
hole. Now I have a lumpy, jagged scar that ripples out 
over a space the size of an apple. Usually, my sleeve 
covers it, but the way Cinna's Mockingjay costume is 
designed, the sleeves stop just above the elbow. It's 
such a concern that Fulvia and Plutarch are called in 
to discuss it. I swear, the sight of it triggers Fulvia's 
gag reflex. For someone who works with a 
Gamemaker, she's awfully sensitive. But I guess she's 
used to seeing unpleasant things only on a screen. 

"Everyone knows I have a scar here," I say sullenly. 

"Knowing it and seeing it are two different things," 
says Fulvia. "It's positively repulsive. Plutarch and I 
will think of something during lunch." 

"It'll be fine," says Plutarch with a dismissive wave of 
his hand. "Maybe an armband or something." 

Disgusted, I get dressed so I can head to the dining 
hall. My prep team huddles in a little group by the 
door. "Are they bringing your food here?" I ask. 

"No," says Venia. "We're supposed to go to a dining 
hall." 



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I sigh inwardly as I imagine walking into the dining 
hall, trailed by these three. But people always stare at 
me anyway. This will be more of the same. "I'll show 
you where it is," I say. "Come on." 

The covert glances and quiet murmurs I usually 
evoke are nothing compared to the reaction brought 
on by the sight of my bizarre-looking prep team. The 
gaping mouths, the finger pointing, the exclamations. 
"Just ignore them," I tell my prep team. Eyes 
downcast, with mechanical movements, they follow 
me through the line, accepting bowls of grayish fish 
and okra stew and cups of water. 

We take seats at my table, beside a group from the 
Seam. They show a little more restraint than the 
people from 13 do, although it may just be from 
embarrassment. Leevy, who was my neighbor back in 
12, gives a cautious hello to the preps, and Gale's 
mother, Hazelle, who must know about their 
imprisonment, holds up a spoonful of the stew. "Don't 
worry," she says. "Tastes better than it looks." 

But it's Posy, Gale's five-year-old sister, who helps the 
most. She scoots along the bench to Octavia and 
touches her skin with a tentative finger. "You're 
green. Are you sick?" 

"It's a fashion thing, Posy. Like wearing lipstick," I 
say. 

"It's meant to be pretty," whispers Octavia, and I can 
see the tears threatening to spill over her lashes. 

Posy considers this and says matter-of-factly, "I think 
you'd be pretty in any color." 

The tiniest of smiles forms on Octavia' s lips. "Thank 
you." 

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"If you really want to impress Posy, you'll have to dye 
yourself bright pink," says Gale, thumping his tray 
down beside me. "That's her favorite color." Posy 
giggles and slides back down to her mother. Gale 
nods at Flavius's bowl. "I wouldn't let that get cold. It 
doesn't improve the consistency." 

Everyone gets down to eating. The stew doesn't taste 
bad, but there's a certain sliminess that's hard to get 
around. Like you have to swallow every bite three 
times before it really goes down. 

Gale, who's not usually much of a talker during 
meals, makes an effort to keep the conversation 
going, asking about the makeover. I know it's his 
attempt at smoothing things over. We argued last 
night after he suggested I'd left Coin no choice but to 
counter my demand for the victors' safety with one of 
her own. "Katniss, she's running this district. She 
can't do it if it seems like she's caving in to your will." 

"You mean she can't stand any dissent, even if it's 
fair," I'd countered. 

"I mean you put her in a bad position. Making her 
give Peeta and the others immunity when we don't 
even know what sort of damage they might cause," 
Gale had said. 

"So I should' ve just gone with the program and let the 
other tributes take their chances? Not that it matters, 
because that's what we're all doing anyway!" That was 
when I'd slammed the door in his face. I hadn't sat 
with him at breakfast, and when Plutarch had sent 
him down to training this morning, I'd let him go 
without a word. I know he only spoke out of concern 
for me, but I really need him to be on my side, not 
Coin's. How can he not know that? 



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After lunch, Gale and I are scheduled to go down to 
Special Defense to meet Beetee. As we ride the 
elevator, Gale finally says, "You're still angry." 

"And you're still not sorry," I reply. 

"I still stand by what I said. Do you want me to lie 
about it?" he asks. 

"No, I want you to rethink it and come up with the 
right opinion," I tell him. But this just makes him 
laugh. I have to let it go. There's no point in trying to 
dictate what Gale thinks. Which, if I'm honest, is one 
reason I trust him. 

The Special Defense level is situated almost as far 
down as the dungeons where we found the prep team. 
It's a beehive of rooms full of computers, labs, 
research equipment, and testing ranges. 

When we ask for Beetee, we're directed through the 
maze until we reach an enormous plate-glass window. 
Inside is the first beautiful thing I've seen in the 
District 13 compound: a replication of a meadow, 
filled with real trees and flowering plants, and alive 
with hummingbirds. Beetee sits motionless in a 
wheelchair at the center of the meadow, watching a 
spring-green bird hover in midair as it sips nectar 
from a large orange blossom. His eyes follow the bird 
as it darts away, and he catches sight of us. He gives 
a friendly wave for us to join him inside. 

The air's cool and breathable, not humid and muggy 
as I'd expected. From all sides comes the whir of tiny 
wings, which I used to confuse with the sound of 
insects in our woods at home. I have to wonder what 
sort of fluke allowed such a pleasing place to be built 
here. 



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Beetee still has the pallor of someone in 
convalescence, but behind those ill-fitting glasses, his 
eyes are alight with excitement. "Aren't they 
magnificent? Thirteen has been studying their 
aerodynamics here for years. Forward and backward 
flight, and speeds up to sixty miles per hour. If only I 
could build you wings like these, Katniss!" 

"Doubt I could manage them, Beetee," I laugh. 

"Here one second, gone the next. Can you bring a 
hummingbird down with an arrow?" he asks. 

"I've never tried. Not much meat on them," I answer. 

"No. And you're not one to kill for sport," he says. "I 
bet they'd be hard to shoot, though. " 

"You could snare them maybe," Gale says. His face 
takes on that distant look it wears when he's working 
something out. "Take a net with a very fine mesh. 
Enclose an area and leave a mouth of a couple square 
feet. Bait the inside with nectar flowers. While they're 
feeding, snap the mouth shut. They'd fly away from 
the noise but only encounter the far side of the net." 

"Would that work?" asks Beetee. 

"I don't know. Just an idea," says Gale. "They might 
outsmart it." 

"They might. But you're playing on their natural 

instincts to flee danger. Thinking like your 

prey... that's where you find their vulnerabilities," says 

Beetee. 

I remember something I don't like to think about. In 
preparation for the Quell, I saw a tape where Beetee, 
who was still a boy, connected two wires that 



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electrocuted a pack of kids who were hunting him. 
The convulsing bodies, the grotesque expressions. 
Beetee, in the moments that led up to his victory in 
those long-ago Hunger Games, watched the others 
die. Not his fault. Only self-defense. We were all 
acting only in self-defense.... 

Suddenly, I want to leave the hummingbird room 
before somebody starts setting up a snare. "Beetee, 
Plutarch said you had something for me." 

"Right. I do. Your new bow." He presses a hand 
control on the arm of the chair and wheels out of the 
room. As we follow him through the twists and turns 
of Special Defense, he explains about the chair. "I can 
walk a little now. It's just that I tire so quickly. It's 
easier for me to get around this way. How's Finnick 
doing?" 

"He's... he's having concentration problems," I answer. 
I don't want to say he had a complete mental 
meltdown. 

"Concentration problems, eh?" Beetee smiles grimly. 
"If you knew what Finnick's been through the last few 
years, you'd know how remarkable it is he's still with 
us at all. Tell him I've been working on a new trident 
for him, though, will you? Something to distract him 
a little." Distraction seems to be the last thing Finnick 
needs, but I promise to pass on the message. 

Four soldiers guard the entrance to the hall marked 
Special Weaponry. Checking the schedules printed on 
our forearms is just a preliminary step. We also have 
fingerprint, retinal, and DNA scans, and have to step 
through special metal detectors. Beetee has to leave 
his wheelchair outside, although they provide him 
with another once we're through security. I find the 
whole thing bizarre because I can't imagine anyone 
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raised in District 13 being a threat the government 
would have to guard against. Have these precautions 
been put in place because of the recent influx of 
immigrants? 

At the door of the armory, we encounter a second 
round of identification checks— as if my DNA might 
have changed in the time it took to walk twenty yards 
down the hallway— and are finally allowed to enter the 
weapons collection. I have to admit the arsenal takes 
my breath away. Row upon row of firearms, 
launchers, explosives, armored vehicles. "Of course, 
the Airborne Division is housed separately," Beetee 
tells us. 

"Of course," I say, as if this would be self-evident. I 
don't know where a simple bow and arrow could 
possibly find a place in all this high-tech equipment, 
but then we come upon a wall of deadly archery 
weapons. I've played with a lot of the Capitol's 
weapons in training, but none designed for military 
combat. I focus my attention on a lethal-looking bow 
so loaded down with scopes and gadgetry, I'm certain 
I can't even lift it, let alone shoot it. 

"Gale, maybe you'd like to try out a few of these," says 
Beetee. 

"Seriously?" Gale asks. 

"You'll be issued a gun eventually for battle, of 
course. But if you appear as part of Katniss's team in 
the propos, one of these would look a little showier. I 
thought you might like to find one that suits you," 
says Beetee. 

"Yeah, I would." Gale's hands close around the very 
bow that caught my attention a moment ago, and he 



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hefts it onto his shoulder. He points it around the 
room, peering through the scope. 



"That doesn't seem very fair to the deer," I say. 

"Wouldn't be using it on deer, would I?" he answers. 

"I'll be right back," says Beetee. He presses a code 
into a panel, and a small doorway opens. I watch 
until he's disappeared and the door's shut. 

"So, it'd be easy for you? Using that on people?" I ask. 

"I didn't say that." Gale drops the bow to his side. 
"But if I'd had a weapon that could've stopped what I 
saw happen in Twelve... if I'd had a weapon that could 
have kept you out of the arena... I'd have used it." 

"Me, too," I admit. But I don't know what to tell him 
about the aftermath of killing a person. About how 
they never leave you. 

Beetee wheels back in with a tall, black rectangular 
case awkwardly positioned between his footrest and 
his shoulder. He comes to a halt and tilts it toward 
me. "For you." 

I set the case flat on the floor and undo the latches 
along one side. The top opens on silent hinges. Inside 
the case, on a bed of crushed maroon velvet, lies a 
stunning black bow. "Oh," I whisper in admiration. I 
lift it carefully into the air to admire the exquisite 
balance, the elegant design, and the curve of the 
limbs that somehow suggests the wings of a bird 
extended in flight. There's something else. I have to 
hold very still to make sure I'm not imagining it. No, 
the bow is alive in my hands. I press it against my 
cheek and feel the slight hum travel through the 
bones of my face. "What's it doing?" I ask. 



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"Saying hello," explains Beetee with a grin. "It heard 
your voice." 



"It recognizes my voice?" I ask. 

"Only your voice," he tells me. "You see, they wanted 
me to design a bow based purely on looks. As part of 
your costume, you know? But I kept thinking, What a 
waste. I mean, what if you do need it sometime? As 
more than a fashion accessory? So I left the outside 
simple, and left the inside to my imagination. Best 
explained in practice, though. Want to try those out?" 

We do. A target range has already been prepared for 
us. The arrows that Beetee designed are no less 
remarkable than the bow. Between the two, I can 
shoot with accuracy over one hundred yards. The 
variety of arrows— razor sharp, incendiary, explosive- 
turn the bow into a multipurpose weapon. Each one 
is recognizable by a distinctive colored shaft. I have 
the option of voice override at any time, but have no 
idea why I would use it. To deactivate the bow's 
special properties, I need only tell it "Good night." 
Then it goes to sleep until the sound of my voice 
wakes it again. 

I'm in good spirits by the time I get back to the prep 
team, leaving Beetee and Gale behind. I sit patiently 
through the rest of the paint job and don my 
costume, which now includes a bloody bandage over 
the scar on my arm to indicate I've been in recent 
combat. Venia affixes my mockingjay pin over my 
heart. I take up my bow and the sheath of normal 
arrows that Beetee made, knowing they would never 
let me walk around with the loaded ones. Then we're 
out on the soundstage, where I seem to stand for 
hours while they adjust makeup and lighting and 
smoke levels. Eventually, the commands coming via 
intercom from the invisible people in the mysterious 



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glassed-in booth become fewer and fewer. Fulvia and 
Plutarch spend more time studying and less time 
adjusting me. Finally, there's quiet on the set. For a 
full five minutes I am simply considered. Then 
Plutarch says, "I think that does it." 

I'm beckoned over to a monitor. They play back the 
last few minutes of taping and I watch the woman on 
the screen. Her body seems larger in stature, more 
imposing than mine. Her face smudged but sexy. Her 
brows black and drawn in an angle of defiance. Wisps 
of smoke— suggesting she has either just been 
extinguished or is about to burst into flames— rise 
from her clothes. I do not know who this person is. 

Finnick, who's been wandering around the set for a 
few hours, comes up behind me and says with a hint 
of his old humor, "They'll either want to kill you, kiss 
you, or be you." 

Everyone's so excited, so pleased with their work. It's 
nearly time to break for dinner, but they insist we 
continue. Tomorrow we'll focus on speeches and 
interviews and have me pretend to be in rebel battles. 
Today they want just one slogan, just one line that 
they can work into a short propo to show to Coin. 

"People of Panem, we fight, we dare, we end our 
hunger for justice!" That's the line. I can tell by the 
way they present it that they've spent months, maybe 
years, working it out and are really proud of it. It 
seems like a mouthful to me, though. And stiff. I can't 
imagine actually saying it in real life— unless I was 
using a Capitol accent and making fun of it. Like 
when Gale and I used to imitate Effie Trinket's "May 
the odds be ever in your favor!" But Fulvia' s right in 
my face, describing a battle I've just been in, and how 
my comrades-in-arms are all lying dead around me, 



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and how, to rally the living, I must turn to the camera 
and shout out the line! 

I'm hustled back to my place, and the smoke machine 
kicks in. Someone calls for quiet, the cameras start 
rolling, and I hear "Action!" So I hold my bow over my 
head and yell with all the anger I can muster, "People 
of Panem, we fight, we dare, we end our hunger for 
justice!" 

There's dead silence on the set. It goes on. And on. 

Finally, the intercom crackles and Haymitch's acerbic 
laugh fills the studio. He contains himself just long 
enough to say, "And that, my friends, is how a 
revolution dies." 



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6 



The shock of hearing Haymitch's voice yesterday, of 
learning that he was not only functional but had 
some measure of control over my life again, enraged 
me. I left the studio directly and refused to 
acknowledge his comments from the booth today. 
Even so, I knew immediately he was right about my 
performance. 

It took the whole of this morning for him to convince 
the others of my limitations. That I can't pull it off. I 
can't stand in a television studio wearing a costume 
and makeup in a cloud of fake smoke and rally the 
districts to victory. It's amazing, really, how long I 
have survived the cameras. The credit for that, of 
course, goes to Peeta. Alone, I can't be the 
Mockingjay. 

We gather around the huge table in Command. Coin 
and her people. Plutarch, Fulvia, and my prep team. 
A group from 12 that includes Haymitch and Gale, 
but also a few others I can't explain, like Leevy and 
Greasy Sae. At the last minute, Finnick wheels Beetee 
in, accompanied by Dalton, the cattle expert from 10. 
I suppose that Coin has assembled this strange 
assortment of people as witnesses to my failure. 

However, it's Haymitch who welcomes everyone, and 
by his words I understand that they have come at his 
personal invitation. This is the first time we've been in 
a room together since I clawed him. I avoid looking at 
him directly, but I catch a glimpse of his reflection in 
one of the shiny control consoles along the wall. He 
looks slightly yellow and has lost a lot of weight, 
giving him a shrunken appearance. For a second, I'm 



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afraid he's dying. I have to remind myself that I don't 
care. 



The first thing Haymitch does is to show the footage 
we've just shot. I seem to have reached some new low 
under Plutarch and Fulvia's guidance. Both my voice 
and body have a jerky, disjointed quality, like a 
puppet being manipulated by unseen forces. 

"All right," Haymitch says when it's over. "Would 
anyone like to argue that this is of use to us in 
winning the war?" No one does. "That saves time. So, 
let's all be quiet for a minute. I want everyone to think 
of one incident where Katniss Everdeen genuinely 
moved you. Not where you were jealous of her 
hairstyle, or her dress went up in flames or she made 
a halfway decent shot with an arrow. Not where Peeta 
was making you like her. I want to hear one moment 
where she made you feel something real." 

Quiet stretches out and I'm beginning to think it will 
never end, when Leevy speaks up. "When she 
volunteered to take Prim's place at the reaping. 
Because I'm sure she thought she was going to die." 

"Good. Excellent example," says Haymitch. He takes a 
purple marker and writes on a notepad. "Volunteered 
for sister at reaping." Haymitch looks around the 
table. "Somebody else." 

I'm surprised that the next speaker is Boggs, who I 
think of as a muscular robot that does Coin's bidding. 
"When she sang the song. While the little girl died." 
Somewhere in my head an image surfaces of Boggs 
with a young boy perched up on his hip. In the dining 
hall, I think. Maybe he's not a robot after all. 

"Who didn't get choked up at that, right?" says 
Haymitch, writing it down. 



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"I cried when she drugged Peeta so she could go get 
him medicine and when she kissed him good-bye!" 
blurts out Octavia. Then she covers her mouth, like 
she's sure this was a bad mistake. 

But Haymitch only nods. "Oh, yeah. Drugs Peeta to 
save his life. Very nice." 

The moments begin to come thick and fast and in no 
particular order. When I took Rue on as an ally. 
Extended my hand to Chaff on interview night. Tried 
to carry Mags. And again and again when I held out 
those berries that meant different things to different 
people. Love for Peeta. Refusal to give in under 
impossible odds. Defiance of the Capitol's 
inhumanity. 

Haymitch holds up the notepad. "So, the question is, 
what do all of these have in common?" 

"They were Katniss's," says Gale quietly. "No one told 
her what to do or say." 

"Unscripted, yes!" says Beetee. He reaches over and 
pats my hand. "So we should just leave you alone, 
right?" 

People laugh. I even smile a little. 

"Well, that's all very nice but not very helpful," says 
Fulvia peevishly. "Unfortunately, her opportunities for 
being wonderful are rather limited here in Thirteen. 
So unless you're suggesting we toss her into the 
middle of combat—" 

"That's exactly what I'm suggesting," says Haymitch. 
"Put her out in the field and just keep the cameras 
rolling." 



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"But people think she's pregnant," Gale points out. 

"We'll spread the word that she lost the baby from the 
electrical shock in the arena," Plutarch replies. "Very 
sad. Very unfortunate." 

The idea of sending me into combat is controversial. 
But Haymitch has a pretty tight case. If I perform well 
only in real-life circumstances, then into them I 
should go. "Every time we coach her or give her lines, 
the best we can hope for is okay. It has to come from 
her. That's what people are responding to." 

"Even if we're careful, we can't guarantee her safety," 
says Boggs. "She'll be a target for every—" 

"I want to go," I break in. "I'm no help to the rebels 
here." 

"And if you're killed?" asks Coin. 

"Make sure you get some footage. You can use that, 
anyway," I answer. 

"Fine," says Coin. "But let's take it one step at a time. 
Find the least dangerous situation that can evoke 
some spontaneity in you." She walks around 
Command, studying the illuminated district maps 
that show the ongoing troop positions in the war. 
"Take her into Eight this afternoon. There was heavy 
bombing this morning, but the raid seems to have 
run its course. I want her armed with a squad of 
bodyguards. Camera crew on the ground. Haymitch, 
you'll be airborne and in contact with her. Let's see 
what happens there. Does anyone have any other 
comments?" 



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"Wash her face," says Dalton. Everyone turns to him. 
"She's still a girl and you made her look thirty-five. 
Feels wrong. Like something the Capitol would do." 

As Coin adjourns the meeting, Haymitch asks her if 
he can speak to me privately. The others leave except 
for Gale, who lingers uncertainly by my side. "What 
are you worried about?" Haymitch asks him. "I'm the 
one who needs the bodyguard." 

"It's okay," I tell Gale, and he goes. Then there's just 
the hum of the instruments, the purr of the 
ventilation system. 

Haymitch takes the seat across from me. "We're going 
to have to work together again. So, go ahead. Just say 
it." 

I think of the snarling, cruel exchange back on the 
hovercraft. The bitterness that followed. But all I say 
is "I can't believe you didn't rescue Peeta." 

"I know," he replies. 

There's a sense of incompleteness. And not because 
he hasn't apologized. But because we were a team. 
We had a deal to keep Peeta safe. A drunken, 
unrealistic deal made in the dark of night, but a deal 
just the same. And in my heart of hearts, I know we 
both failed. 

"Now you say it," I tell him. 

"I can't believe you let him out of your sight that 
night," says Haymitch. 

I nod. That's it. "I play it over and over in my head. 
What I could have done to keep him by my side 



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without breaking the alliance. But nothing comes to 
me." 



"You didn't have a choice. And even if I could've made 
Plutarch stay and rescue him that night, the whole 
hovercraft would've gone down. We barely got out as 
it was." I finally meet Haymitch's eyes. Seam eyes. 
Gray and deep and ringed with the circles of sleepless 
nights. "He's not dead yet, Katniss." 

"We're still in the game." I try to say this with 
optimism, but my voice cracks. 

"Still in. And I'm still your mentor." Haymitch points 
his marker at me. "When you're on the ground, 
remember I'm airborne. I'll have the better view, so do 
what I tell you." 

"We'll see," I answer. 

I return to the Remake Room and watch the streaks 
of makeup disappear down the drain as I scrub my 
face clean. The person in the mirror looks ragged, 
with her uneven skin and tired eyes, but she looks 
like me. I rip the armband off, revealing the ugly scar 
from the tracker. There. That looks like me, too. 

Since I'll be in a combat zone, Beetee helps me with 
armor Cinna designed. A helmet of some interwoven 
metal that fits close to my head. The material's 
supple, like fabric, and can be drawn back like a hood 
in case I don't want it up full-time. A vest to reinforce 
the protection over my vital organs. A small white 
earpiece that attaches to my collar by a wire. Beetee 
secures a mask to my belt that I don't have to wear 
unless there's a gas attack. "If you see anyone 
dropping for reasons you can't explain, put it on 
immediately," he says. Finally, he straps a sheath 
divided into three cylinders of arrows to my back. 



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"Just remember: Right side, fire. Left side, explosive. 
Center, regular. You shouldn't need them, but better 
safe than sorry." 

Boggs shows up to escort me down to the Airborne 
Division. Just as the elevator arrives, Finnick appears 
in a state of agitation. "Katniss, they won't let me go! I 
told them I'm fine, but they won't even let me ride in 
the hovercraft!" 

I take in Finnick— his bare legs showing between his 
hospital gown and slippers, his tangle of hair, the 
half- knotted rope twisted around his fingers, the wild 
look in his eyes— and know any plea on my part will 
be useless. Even I don't think it's a good idea to bring 
him. So I smack my hand on my forehead and say, 
"Oh, I forgot. It's this stupid concussion. I was 
supposed to tell you to report to Beetee in Special 
Weaponry. He's designed a new trident for you." 

At the word trident, it's as if the old Finnick surfaces. 
"Really? What's it do?" 

"I don't know. But if it's anything like my bow and 
arrows, you're going to love it," I say. "You'll need to 
train with it, though." 

"Right. Of course. I guess I better get down there," he 
says. 

"Finnick?" I say. "Maybe some pants?" 

He looks down at his legs as if noticing his outfit for 
the first time. Then he whips off his hospital gown, 
leaving him in just his underwear. "Why? Do you find 
this"— he strikes a ridiculously provocative pose— 
"distracting?" 



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I can't help laughing because it's funny, and it's extra 
funny because it makes Boggs look so uncomfortable, 
and I'm happy because Finnick actually sounds like 
the guy I met at the Quarter Quell. 

"I'm only human, Odair." I get in before the elevator 
doors close. "Sorry," I say to Boggs. 

"Don't be. I thought you... handled that well," he says. 
"Better than my having to arrest him, anyway." 

"Yeah," I say. I sneak a sidelong glance at him. He's 
probably in his mid-forties, with close-cropped gray 
hair and blue eyes. Incredible posture. He's spoken 
out twice today in ways that make me think he would 
rather be friends than enemies. Maybe I should give 
him a chance. But he just seems so in step with 
Coin.... 

There's a series of loud clicks. The elevator comes to a 
slight pause and then begins to move laterally to the 
left. "It goes sideways?" I ask. 

"Yes. There's a whole network of elevator paths under 
Thirteen," he answers. "This one lies just above the 
transport spoke to the fifth airlift platform. It's taking 
us to the Hangar." 

The Hangar. The dungeons. Special Defense. 
Somewhere food is grown. Power generated. Air and 
water purified. "Thirteen is even larger than I 
thought." 

"Can't take credit for much of it," says Boggs. "We 
basically inherited the place. It's been all we can do to 
keep it running." 

The clicks resume. We drop down again briefly— just a 
couple of levels— and the doors open on the Hangar. 
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"Oh," I let out involuntarily at the sight of the fleet. 
Row after row of different kinds of hovercraft. "Did 
you inherit these, too?" 



"Some we manufactured. Some were part of the 
Capitol's air force. They've been updated, of course," 
says Boggs. 

I feel that twinge of hatred against 13 again. "So, you 
had all this, and you left the rest of the districts 
defenseless against the Capitol." 

"It's not that simple," he shoots back. "We were in no 
position to launch a counterattack until recently. We 
could barely stay alive. After we'd overthrown and 
executed the Capitol's people, only a handful of us 
even knew how to pilot. We could've nuked them with 
missiles, yes. But there's always the larger question: 
If we engage in that type of war with the Capitol, 
would there be any human life left?" 

"That sounds like what Peeta said. And you all called 
him a traitor," I counter. 

"Because he called for a cease-fire," says Boggs. 
"You'll notice neither side has launched nuclear 
weapons. We're working it out the old-fashioned way. 
Over here, Soldier Everdeen." He indicates one of the 
smaller hovercraft. 

I mount the stairs and find it packed with the 
television crew and equipment. Everyone else is 
dressed in 13's dark gray military jumpsuits, even 
Haymitch, although he seems unhappy about the 
snugness of his collar. 

Fulvia Cardew hustles over and makes a sound of 
frustration when she sees my clean face. "All that 
work, down the drain. I'm not blaming you, Katniss. 



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It's just that very few people are born with camera- 
ready faces. Like him." She snags Gale, who's in a 
conversation with Plutarch, and spins him toward us. 
"Isn't he handsome?" 

Gale does look striking in the uniform, I guess. But 
the question just embarrasses us both, given our 
history. I'm trying to think of a witty comeback, when 
Boggs says brusquely, "Well, don't expect us to be too 
impressed. We just saw Finnick Odair in his 
underwear." I decide to go ahead and like Boggs. 

There's a warning of the upcoming takeoff and I strap 
myself into a seat next to Gale, facing off with 
Haymitch and Plutarch. We glide through a maze of 
tunnels that opens out onto a platform. Some sort of 
elevator device lifts the craft slowly up through the 
levels. All at once we're outside in a large field 
surrounded by woods, then we rise off the platform 
and become wrapped in clouds. 

Now that the flurry of activity leading up to this 
mission is over, I realize I have no idea what I'm 
facing on this trip to District 8. In fact, I know very 
little about the actual state of the war. Or what it 
would take to win it. Or what would happen if we did. 

Plutarch tries to lay it out in simple terms for me. 
First of all, every district is currently at war with the 
Capitol except 2, which has always had a favored 
relationship with our enemies despite its participation 
in the Hunger Games. They get more food and better 
living conditions. After the Dark Days and the 
supposed destruction of 13, District 2 became the 
Capitol's new center of defense, although it's publicly 
presented as the home of the nation's stone quarries, 
in the same way that 13 was known for graphite 
mining. District 2 not only manufactures weaponry, it 
trains and even supplies Peacekeepers. 



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"You mean... some of the Peacekeepers are born in 
Two?" I ask. "I thought they all came from the 
Capitol." 

Plutarch nods. "That's what you're supposed to think. 
And some do come from the Capitol. But its 
population could never sustain a force that size. Then 
there's the problem of recruiting Capitol-raised 
citizens for a dull life of deprivation in the districts. A 
twenty -year commitment to the Peacekeepers, no 
marriage, no children allowed. Some buy into it for 
the honor of the thing, others take it on as an 
alternative to punishment. For instance, join the 
Peacekeepers and your debts are forgiven. Many 
people are swamped in debt in the Capitol, but not all 
of them are fit for military duty. So District Two is 
where we turn for additional troops. It's a way for 
their people to escape poverty and a life in the 
quarries. They're raised with a warrior mind-set. 
You've seen how eager their children are to volunteer 
to be tributes." 

Cato and Clove. Brutus and Enobaria. I've seen their 
eagerness and their bloodlust, too. "But all the other 
districts are on our side?" I ask. 

"Yes. Our goal is to take over the districts one by one, 
ending with District Two, thus cutting off the 
Capitol's supply chain. Then, once it's weakened, we 
invade the Capitol itself," says Plutarch. "That will be 
a whole other type of challenge. But we'll cross that 
bridge when we come to it." 

"If we win, who would be in charge of the 
government?" Gale asks. 

"Everyone," Plutarch tells him. "We're going to form a 
republic where the people of each district and the 
Capitol can elect their own representatives to be their 



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voice in a centralized government. Don't look so 
suspicious; it's worked before." 

"In books," Haymitch mutters. 

"In history books," says Plutarch. "And if our 
ancestors could do it, then we can, too." 

Frankly, our ancestors don't seem much to brag 
about. I mean, look at the state they left us in, with 
the wars and the broken planet. Clearly, they didn't 
care about what would happen to the people who 
came after them. But this republic idea sounds like 
an improvement over our current government. 

"And if we lose?" I ask. 

"If we lose?" Plutarch looks out at the clouds, and an 
ironic smile twists his lips. "Then I would expect next 
year's Hunger Games to be quite unforgettable. That 
reminds me." He takes a vial from his vest, shakes a 
few deep violet pills into his hand, and holds them 
out to us. "We named them nightlock in your honor, 
Katniss. The rebels can't afford for any of us to be 
captured now. But I promise, it will be completely 
painless." 

I take hold of a capsule, unsure of where to put it. 
Plutarch taps a spot on my shoulder at the front of 
my left sleeve. I examine it and find a tiny pocket that 
both secures and conceals the pill. Even if my hands 
were tied, I could lean my head forward and bite it 
free. 

Cinna, it seems, has thought of everything. 



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7 



The hovercraft makes a quick, spiral descent onto a 
wide road on the outskirts of 8. Almost immediately, 
the door opens, the stairs slide into place, and we're 
spit out onto the asphalt. The moment the last person 
disembarks, the equipment retracts. Then the craft 
lifts off and vanishes. I'm left with a bodyguard made 
up of Gale, Boggs, and two other soldiers. The TV 
crew consists of a pair of burly Capitol cameramen 
with heavy mobile cameras encasing their bodies like 
insect shells, a woman director named Cressida who 
has a shaved head tattooed with green vines, and her 
assistant, Messalla, a slim young man with several 
sets of earrings. On careful observation, I see his 
tongue has been pierced, too, and he wears a stud 
with a silver ball the size of a marble. 

Boggs hustles us off the road toward a row of 
warehouses as a second hovercraft comes in for a 
landing. This one brings crates of medical supplies 
and a crew of six medics— I can tell by their distinctive 
white outfits. We all follow Boggs down an alley that 
runs between two dull gray warehouses. Only the 
occasional access ladder to the roof interrupts the 
scarred metal walls. When we emerge onto the street, 
it's like we've entered another world. 

The wounded from this morning's bombing are being 
brought in. On homemade stretchers, in 
wheelbarrows, on carts, slung across shoulders, and 
clenched tight in arms. Bleeding, limbless, 
unconscious. Propelled by desperate people to a 
warehouse with a sloppily painted H above the 
doorway. It's a scene from my old kitchen, where my 
mother treated the dying, multiplied by ten, by fifty, 



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by a hundred. I had expected bombed-out buildings 
and instead find myself confronted with broken 
human bodies. 

This is where they plan on filming me? I turn to 
Boggs. "This won't work," I say. "I won't be good here." 

He must see the panic in my eyes, because he stops a 
moment and places his hands on my shoulders. "You 
will. Just let them see you. That will do more for them 
than any doctor in the world could." 

A woman directing the incoming patients catches 
sight of us, does a sort of double take, and then 
strides over. Her dark brown eyes are puffy with 
fatigue and she smells of metal and sweat. A bandage 
around her throat needed changing about three days 
ago. The strap of the automatic weapon slung across 
her back digs into her neck and she shifts her 
shoulder to reposition it. With a jerk of her thumb, 
she orders the medics into the warehouse. They 
comply without question. 

"This is Commander Paylor of Eight," says Boggs. 
"Commander, Soldier Katniss Everdeen." 

She looks young to be a commander. Early thirties. 
But there's an authoritative tone to her voice that 
makes you feel her appointment wasn't arbitrary. 
Beside her, in my spanking-new outfit, scrubbed and 
shiny, I feel like a recently hatched chick, untested 
and only just learning how to navigate the world. 

"Yeah, I know who she is," says Paylor. "You're alive, 
then. We weren't sure." Am I wrong or is there a note 
of accusation in her voice? 

"I'm still not sure myself," I answer. 



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"Been in recovery." Boggs taps his head. "Bad 
concussion." He lowers his voice a moment. 
"Miscarriage. But she insisted on coming by to see 
your wounded." 

"Well, we've got plenty of those," says Paylor. 

"You think this is a good idea?" says Gale, frowning at 
the hospital. "Assembling your wounded like this?" 

I don't. Any sort of contagious disease would spread 
through this place like wildfire. 

"I think it's slightly better than leaving them to die," 
says Paylor. 

"That's not what I meant," Gale tells her. 

"Well, currently that's my other option. But if you 
come up with a third and get Coin to back it, I'm all 
ears." Paylor waves me toward the door. "Come on in, 
Mockingjay. And by all means, bring your friends." 

I glance back at the freak show that is my crew, steel 
myself, and follow her into the hospital. Some sort of 
heavy, industrial curtain hangs the length of the 
building, forming a sizable corridor. Corpses lie side 
by side, curtain brushing their heads, white cloths 
concealing their faces. "We've got a mass grave 
started a few blocks west of here, but I can't spare the 
manpower to move them yet," says Paylor. She finds a 
slit in the curtain and opens it wide. 

My fingers wrap around Gale's wrist. "Do not leave my 
side," I say under my breath. 

"I'm right here," he answers quietly. 



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I step through the curtain and my senses are 
assaulted. My first impulse is to cover my nose to 
block out the stench of soiled linen, putrefying flesh, 
and vomit, all ripening in the heat of the warehouse. 
They've propped open skylights that crisscross the 
high metal roof, but any air that's managing to get in 
can't make a dent in the fog below. The thin shafts of 
sunlight provide the only illumination, and as my 
eyes adjust, I can make out row upon row of 
wounded, in cots, on pallets, on the floor because 
there are so many to claim the space. The drone of 
black flies, the moaning of people in pain, and the 
sobs of their attending loved ones have combined into 
a wrenching chorus. 

We have no real hospitals in the districts. We die at 
home, which at the moment seems a far desirable 
alternative to what lies in front of me. Then I 
remember that many of these people probably lost 
their homes in the bombings. 

Sweat begins to run down my back, fill my palms. I 
breathe through my mouth in an attempt to diminish 
the smell. Black spots swim across my field of vision, 
and I think there's a really good chance I could faint. 
But then I catch sight of Paylor, who's watching me so 
closely, waiting to see what I am made of, and if any 
of them have been right to think they can count on 
me. So I let go of Gale and force myself to move 
deeper into the warehouse, to walk into the narrow 
strip between two rows of beds. 

"Katniss?" a voice croaks out from my left, breaking 
apart from the general din. "Katniss?" A hand reaches 
for me out of the haze. I cling to it for support. 
Attached to the hand is a young woman with an 
injured leg. Blood has seeped through the heavy 
bandages, which are crawling with flies. Her face 
reflects her pain, but something else, too, something 
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that seems completely incongruous with her 
situation. "Is it really you?" 

"Yeah, it's me," I get out. 

Joy. That's the expression on her face. At the sound 
of my voice, it brightens, erases the suffering 
momentarily. 

"You're alive! We didn't know. People said you were, 
but we didn't know!" she says excitedly. 

"I got pretty banged up. But I got better," I say. "Just 
like you will." 

"I've got to tell my brother!" The woman struggles to 
sit up and calls to someone a few beds down. "Eddy! 
Eddy! She's here! It's Katniss Everdeen!" 

A boy, probably about twelve years old, turns to us. 
Bandages obscure half of his face. The side of his 
mouth I can see opens as if to utter an exclamation. I 
go to him, push his damp brown curls back from his 
forehead. Murmur a greeting. He can't speak, but his 
one good eye fixes on me with such intensity, as if 
he's trying to memorize every detail of my face. 

I hear my name rippling through the hot air, 
spreading out into the hospital. "Katniss! Katniss 
Everdeen!" The sounds of pain and grief begin to 
recede, to be replaced by words of anticipation. From 
all sides, voices beckon me. I begin to move, clasping 
the hands extended to me, touching the sound parts 
of those unable to move their limbs, saying hello, how 
are you, good to meet you. Nothing of importance, no 
amazing words of inspiration. But it doesn't matter. 
Boggs is right. It's the sight of me, alive, that is the 
inspiration. 



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Hungry fingers devour me, wanting to feel my flesh. 
As a stricken man clutches my face between his 
hands, I send a silent thank-you to Dalton for 
suggesting I wash off the makeup. How ridiculous, 
how perverse I would feel presenting that painted 
Capitol mask to these people. The damage, the 
fatigue, the imperfections. That's how they recognize 
me, why I belong to them. 

Despite his controversial interview with Caesar, many 
ask about Peeta, assure me that they know he was 
speaking under duress. I do my best to sound positive 
about our future, but people are truly devastated 
when they learn I've lost the baby. I want to come 
clean and tell one weeping woman that it was all a 
hoax, a move in the game, but to present Peeta as a 
liar now would not help his image. Or mine. Or the 
cause. 

I begin to fully understand the lengths to which 
people have gone to protect me. What I mean to the 
rebels. My ongoing struggle against the Capitol, which 
has so often felt like a solitary journey, has not been 
undertaken alone. I have had thousands upon 
thousands of people from the districts at my side. I 
was their Mockingjay long before I accepted the role. 

A new sensation begins to germinate inside me. But it 
takes until I am standing on a table, waving my final 
goodbyes to the hoarse chanting of my name, to 
define it. Power. I have a kind of power I never knew I 
possessed. Snow knew it, as soon as I held out those 
berries. Plutarch knew when he rescued me from the 
arena. And Coin knows now. So much so that she 
must publicly remind her people that I am not in 
control. 



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When we're outside again, I lean against the 
warehouse, catching my breath, accepting the 
canteen of water from Boggs. "You did great," he says. 

Well, I didn't faint or throw up or run out screaming. 
Mostly, I just rode the wave of emotion rolling through 
the place. 

"We got some nice stuff in there," says Cressida. I 
look at the insect cameramen, perspiration pouring 
from under their equipment. Messalla scribbling 
notes. I had forgotten they were even filming me. 

"I didn't do much, really," I say. 

"You have to give yourself some credit for what you've 
done in the past," says Boggs. 

What I've done in the past? I think of the trail of 
destruction in my wake— my knees weaken and I slide 
down to a sitting position. "That's a mixed bag." 

"Well, you're not perfect by a long shot. But times 
being what they are, you'll have to do," says Boggs. 

Gale squats down beside me, shaking his head. "I 
can't believe you let all those people touch you. I kept 
expecting you to make a break for the door." 

"Shut up," I say with a laugh. 

"Your mother's going to be very proud when she sees 
the footage," he says. 

"My mother won't even notice me. She'll be too 
appalled by the conditions in there." I turn to Boggs 
and ask, "Is it like this in every district?" 



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"Yes. Most are under attack. We're trying to get in aid 
wherever we can, but it's not enough." He stops a 
minute, distracted by something in his earpiece. I 
realize I haven't heard Haymitch's voice once, and 
fiddle with mine, wondering if it's broken. "We're to 
get to the airstrip. Immediately," Boggs says, lifting 
me to my feet with one hand. "There's a problem." 

"What kind of problem?" asks Gale. 

"Incoming bombers," says Boggs. He reaches behind 
my neck and yanks Cinna's helmet up onto my head. 
"Let's move!" 

Unsure of what's going on, I take off running along 
the front of the warehouse, heading for the alley that 
leads to the airstrip. But I don't sense any immediate 
threat. The sky's an empty, cloudless blue. The 
street's clear except for the people hauling the 
wounded to the hospital. There's no enemy, no alarm. 
Then the sirens begin to wail. Within seconds, a low- 
flying V-shaped formation of Capitol hoverplanes 
appears above us, and the bombs begin to fall. I'm 
blown off my feet, into the front wall of the 
warehouse. There's a searing pain just above the back 
of my right knee. Something has struck my back as 
well, but doesn't seem to have penetrated my vest. I 
try to get up, but Boggs pushes me back down, 
shielding my body with his own. The ground ripples 
under me as bomb after bomb drops from the planes 
and detonates. 

It's a horrifying sensation being pinned against the 
wall as the bombs rain down. What was that 
expression my father used for easy kills? Like 
shooting fish in a barrel. We are the fish, the street 
the barrel. 

"Katniss!" I'm startled by Haymitch's voice in my ear. 
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"What? Yes, what? I'm here!" I answer. 



"Listen to me. We can't land during the bombing, but 
it's imperative you're not spotted," he says. 

"So they don't know I'm here?" I assumed, as usual, it 
was my presence that brought on punishment. 

"Intelligence thinks no. That this raid was already 
scheduled," says Haymitch. 

Now Plutarch's voice comes up, calm but forceful. The 
voice of a Head Gamemaker used to calling the shots 
under pressure. "There's a light blue warehouse three 
down from you. It has a bunker in the far north 
corner. Can you get there?" 

"We'll do our best," says Boggs. Plutarch must be in 
everyone's ear, because my bodyguards and crew are 
getting up. My eye instinctively searches for Gale and 
sees he's on his feet, apparently unharmed. 

"You've got maybe forty-five seconds to the next 
wave," says Plutarch. 

I give a grunt of pain as my right leg takes the weight 
of my body, but I keep moving. No time to examine 
the injury. Better not to look now, anyway. 
Fortunately, I have on shoes that Cinna designed. 
They grip the asphalt on contact and spring free of it 
on release. I'd be hopeless in that ill-fitting pair that 
13 assigned to me. Boggs has the lead, but no one 
else passes me. Instead they match my pace, 
protecting my sides, my back. I force myself into a 
sprint as the seconds tick away. We pass the second 
gray warehouse and run along a dirt brown building. 
Up ahead, I see a faded blue facade. Home of the 
bunker. We have just reached another alley, need 
only to cross it to arrive at the door, when the next 



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wave of bombs begins. I instinctively dive into the 
alley and roll toward the blue wall. This time it's Gale 
who throws himself over me to provide one more layer 
of protection from the bombing. It seems to go on 
longer this time, but we are farther away. 

I shift onto my side and find myself looking directly 
into Gale's eyes. For an instant the world recedes and 
there is just his flushed face, his pulse visible at his 
temple, his lips slightly parted as he tries to catch his 
breath. 

"You all right?" he asks, his words nearly drowned out 
by an explosion. 

"Yeah. I don't think they've seen me," I answer. "I 
mean, they're not following us." 

"No, they've targeted something else," says Gale. 

"I know, but there's nothing back there but—" The 
realization hits us at the same time. 

"The hospital." Instantly, Gale's up and shouting to 
the others. "They're targeting the hospital!" 

"Not your problem," says Plutarch firmly. "Get to the 
bunker." 

"But there's nothing there but the wounded!" I say. 

"Katniss." I hear the warning note in Haymitch's voice 
and know what's coming. "Don't you even think 
about—!" I yank the earpiece free and let it hang from 
its wire. With that distraction gone, I hear another 
sound. Machine gun fire coming from the roof of the 
dirt brown warehouse across the alley. Someone is 
returning fire. Before anyone can stop me, I make a 



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dash for an access ladder and begin to scale it. 
Climbing. One of the things I do best. 



"Don't stop!" I hear Gale say behind me. Then there's 
the sound of his boot on someone's face. If it belongs 
to Boggs, Gale's going to pay for it dearly later on. I 
make the roof and drag myself onto the tar. I stop 
long enough to pull Gale up beside me, and then we 
take off for the row of machine gun nests on the street 
side of the warehouse. Each looks to be manned by a 
few rebels. We skid into a nest with a pair of soldiers, 
hunching down behind the barrier. 

"Boggs know you're up here?" To my left I see Paylor 
behind one of the guns, looking at us quizzically. 

I try to be evasive without flat-out lying. "He knows 
where we are, all right." 

Paylor laughs. "I bet he does. You been trained in 
these?" She slaps the stock of her gun. 

"I have. In Thirteen," says Gale. "But I'd rather use 
my own weapons." 

"Yes, we've got our bows." I hold mine up, then realize 
how decorative it must seem. "It's more deadly than it 
looks." 

"It would have to be," says Paylor. "All right. We 
expect at least three more waves. They have to drop 
their sight shields before they release the bombs. 
That's our chance. Stay low!" I position myself to 
shoot from one knee. 

"Better start with fire," says Gale. 

I nod and pull an arrow from my right sheath. If we 
miss our targets, these arrows will land somewhere— 



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probably the warehouses across the street. A fire can 
be put out, but the damage an explosive can do may 
be irreparable. 

Suddenly, they appear in the sky, two blocks down, 
maybe a hundred yards above us. Seven small 
bombers in a V formation. "Geese!" I yell at Gale. He'll 
know exactly what I mean. During migration season, 
when we hunt fowl, we've developed a system of 
dividing the birds so we don't both target the same 
ones. I get the far side of the V, Gale takes the near, 
and we alternate shots at the front bird. There's no 
time for further discussion. I estimate the lead time 
on the hoverplanes and let my arrow fly. I catch the 
inside wing of one, causing it to burst into flames. 
Gale just misses the point plane. A fire blooms on an 
empty warehouse roof across from us. He swears 
under his breath. 

The hoverplane I hit swerves out of formation, but 
still releases its bombs. It doesn't disappear, though. 
Neither does one other I assume was hit by gunfire. 
The damage must prevent the sight shield from 
reactivating. 

"Good shot," says Gale. 

"I wasn't even aiming for that one," I mutter. I'd set 
my sights on the plane in front of it. "They're faster 
than we think." 

"Positions!" Paylor shouts. The next wave of 
hoverplanes is appearing already. 

"Fire's no good," Gale says. I nod and we both load 
explosive-tipped arrows. Those warehouses across the 
way look deserted anyway. 



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As the planes sweep silently in, I make another 
decision. "I'm standing!" I shout to Gale, and rise to 
my feet. This is the position I get the best accuracy 
from. I lead earlier and score a direct hit on the point 
plane, blasting a hole in its belly. Gale blows the tail 
off a second. It flips and crashes into the street, 
setting off a series of explosions as its cargo goes off. 

Without warning, a third V formation unveils. This 
time, Gale squarely hits the point plane. I take the 
wing off the second bomber, causing it to spin into 
the one behind it. Together they collide into the roof of 
the warehouse across from the hospital. A fourth goes 
down from gunfire. 

"All right, that's it," Paylor says. 

Flames and heavy black smoke from the wreckage 
obscure our view. "Did they hit the hospital?" 

"Must have," she says grimly. 

As I hurry toward the ladders at the far end of the 
warehouse, the sight of Messalla and one of the 
insects emerging from behind an air duct surprises 
me. I thought they'd still be hunkered down in the 
alley. 

"They're growing on me," says Gale. 

I scramble down a ladder. When my feet hit the 
ground, I find a bodyguard, Cressida, and the other 
insect waiting. I expect resistance, but Cressida just 
waves me toward the hospital. She's yelling, "I don't 
care, Plutarch! Just give me five more minutes!" Not 
one to question a free pass, I take off into the street. 

"Oh, no," I whisper as I catch sight of the hospital. 
What used to be the hospital. I move past the 



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wounded, past the burning plane wrecks, fixated on 
the disaster ahead of me. People screaming, running 
about frantically, but unable to help. The bombs have 
collapsed the hospital roof and set the building on 
fire, effectively trapping the patients within. A group 
of rescuers has assembled, trying to clear a path to 
the inside. But I already know what they will find. If 
the crushing debris and the flames didn't get them, 
the smoke did. 

Gale's at my shoulder. The fact that he does nothing 
only confirms my suspicions. Miners don't abandon 
an accident until it's hopeless. 

"Come on, Katniss. Haymitch says they can get a 
hovercraft in for us now," he tells me. But I can't 
seem to move. 

"Why would they do that? Why would they target 
people who were already dying?" I ask him. 

"Scare others off. Prevent the wounded from seeking 
help," says Gale. "Those people you met, they were 
expendable. To Snow, anyway. If the Capitol wins, 
what will it do with a bunch of damaged slaves?" 

I remember all those years in the woods, listening to 
Gale rant against the Capitol. Me, not paying close 
attention. Wondering why he even bothered to dissect 
its motives. Why thinking like our enemy would ever 
matter. Clearly, it could have mattered today. When 
Gale questioned the existence of the hospital, he was 
not thinking of disease, but this. Because he never 
underestimates the cruelty of those we face. 

I slowly turn my back to the hospital and find 
Cressida, flanked by the insects, standing a couple of 
yards in front of me. Her manner's unrattled. Cool 
even. "Katniss," she says, "President Snow just had 
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them air the bombing live. Then he made an 
appearance to say that this was his way of sending a 
message to the rebels. What about you? Would you 
like to tell the rebels anything?" 

"Yes," I whisper. The red blinking light on one of the 
cameras catches my eye. I know I'm being recorded. 
"Yes," I say more forcefully. Everyone is drawing away 
from me— Gale, Cressida, the insects— giving me the 
stage. But I stay focused on the red light. "I want to 
tell the rebels that I am alive. That I'm right here in 
District Eight, where the Capitol has just bombed a 
hospital full of unarmed men, women, and children. 
There will be no survivors." The shock I've been 
feeling begins to give way to fury. "I want to tell people 
that if you think for one second the Capitol will treat 
us fairly if there's a cease-fire, you're deluding 
yourself. Because you know who they are and what 
they do." My hands go out automatically, as if to 
indicate the whole horror around me. "This is what 
they do! And we must fight back!" 

I'm moving in toward the camera now, carried forward 
by my rage. "President Snow says he's sending us a 
message? Well, I have one for him. You can torture us 
and bomb us and burn our districts to the ground, 
but do you see that?" One of the cameras follows as I 
point to the planes burning on the roof of the 
warehouse across from us. The Capitol seal on a wing 
glows clearly through the flames. "Fire is catching!" I 
am shouting now, determined that he will not miss a 
word. "And if we burn, you burn with us!" 

My last words hang in the air. I feel suspended in 
time. Held aloft in a cloud of heat that generates not 
from my surroundings, but from my own being. 



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"Cut!" Cressida's voice snaps me back to reality, 
extinguishes me. She gives me a nod of approval. 
"That's a wrap." 



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3 



Boggs appears and gets a firm lock on my arm, but 
I'm not planning on running now. I look over at the 
hospital— just in time to see the rest of the structure 
give way— and the fight goes out of me. All those 
people, the hundreds of wounded, the relatives, the 
medics from 13, are no more. I turn back to Boggs, 
see the swelling on his face left by Gale's boot. I'm no 
expert, but I'm pretty sure his nose is broken. His 
voice is more resigned than angry, though. "Back to 
the landing strip." I obediently take a step forward 
and wince as I become aware of the pain behind my 
right knee. The adrenaline rush that overrode the 
sensation has passed and my body parts join in a 
chorus of complaints. I'm banged up and bloody and 
someone seems to be hammering on my left temple 
from inside my skull. Boggs quickly examines my 
face, then scoops me up and jogs for the runway. 
Halfway there, I puke on his bulletproof vest. It's hard 
to tell because he's short of breath, but I think he 
sighs. 

A small hovercraft, different from the one that 
transported us here, waits on the runway. The second 
my team's on board, we take off. No comfy seats and 
windows this time. We seem to be in some sort of 
cargo craft. Boggs does emergency first aid on people 
to hold them until we get back to 13. I want to take 
off my vest, since I got a fair amount of vomit on it as 
well, but it's too cold to think about it. I lie on the 
floor with my head in Gale's lap. The last thing I 
remember is Boggs spreading a couple of burlap 
sacks over me. 



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When I wake up, I'm warm and patched up in my old 
bed in the hospital. My mother's there, checking my 
vital signs. "How do you feel?" 

"A little beat-up, but all right," I say. 

"No one even told us you were going until you were 
gone," she says. 

I feel a pang of guilt. When your family's had to send 
you off twice to the Hunger Games, this isn't the kind 
of detail you should overlook. "I'm sorry. They weren't 
expecting the attack. I was just supposed to be 
visiting the patients," I explain. "Next time, I'll have 
them clear it with you." 

"Katniss, no one clears anything with me," she says. 

It's true. Even I don't. Not since my father died. Why 
pretend? "Well, I'll have them... notify you anyway." 

On the bedside table is a piece of shrapnel they 
removed from my leg. The doctors are more concerned 
with the damage my brain might have suffered from 
the explosions, since my concussion hadn't fully 
healed to begin with. But I don't have double vision or 
anything and I can think clearly enough. I've slept 
right through the late afternoon and night, and I'm 
starving. My breakfast is disappointingly small. Just 
a few cubes of bread soaking in warm milk. I've been 
called down to an early morning meeting at 
Command. I start to get up and then realize they plan 
to roll my hospital bed directly there. I want to walk, 
but that's out, so I negotiate my way into a 
wheelchair. I feel fine, really. Except for my head, and 
my leg, and the soreness from the bruises, and the 
nausea that hit a couple minutes after I ate. Maybe 
the wheelchair's a good idea. 



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As they wheel me down, I begin to get uneasy about 
what I will face. Gale and I directly disobeyed orders 
yesterday, and Boggs has the injury to prove it. 
Surely, there will be repercussions, but will they go so 
far as Coin annulling our agreement for the victors' 
immunity? Have I stripped Peeta of what little 
protection I could give him? 

When I get to Command, the only ones who've arrived 
are Cressida, Messalla, and the insects. Messalla 
beams and says, "There's our little star!" and the 
others are smiling so genuinely that I can't help but 
smile in return. They impressed me in 8, following me 
onto the roof during the bombing, making Plutarch 
back off so they could get the footage they wanted. 
They more than do their work, they take pride in it. 
Like Cinna. 

I have a strange thought that if we were in the arena 
together, I would pick them as allies. Cressida, 
Messalla, and— and— "I have to stop calling you 'the 
insects,'" I blurt out to the cameramen. I explain how 
I didn't know their names, but their suits suggested 
the shelled creatures. The comparison doesn't seem 
to bother them. Even without the camera shells, they 
strongly resemble each other. Same sandy hair, red 
beards, and blue eyes. The one with close-bitten nails 
introduces himself as Castor and the other, who's his 
brother, as Pollux. I wait for Pollux to say hello, but 
he just nods. At first I think he's shy or a man of few 
words. But something tugs on me— the position of his 
lips, the extra effort he takes to swallow— and I know 
before Castor tells me. Pollux is an Avox. They have 
cut out his tongue and he will never speak again. And 
I no longer have to wonder what made him risk 
everything to help bring down the Capitol. 

As the room fills, I brace myself for a less congenial 
reception. But the only people who register any kind 
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of negativity are Haymitch, who's always out of sorts, 
and a sour-faced Fulvia Cardew. Boggs wears a flesh- 
colored plastic mask from his upper lip to his brow— I 
was right about the broken nose— so his expression's 
hard to read. Coin and Gale are in the midst of some 
exchange that seems positively chummy. 

When Gale slides into the seat next to my wheelchair, 
I say, "Making new friends?" 

His eyes flicker to the president and back. "Well, one 
of us has to be accessible." He touches my temple 
gently. "How do you feel?" 

They must have served stewed garlic and squash for 
the breakfast vegetable. The more people who gather, 
the stronger the fumes are. My stomach turns and 
the lights suddenly seem too bright. "Kind of rocky," I 
say. "How are you?" 

"Fine. They dug out a couple of pieces of shrapnel. No 
big deal," he says. 

Coin calls the meeting to order. "Our Airtime Assault 
has officially launched. For any of you who missed 
yesterday's twenty-hundred broadcast of our first 
propo— or the seventeen reruns Beetee has managed 
to air since— we will begin by replaying it." Replaying 
it? So they not only got usable footage, they've already 
slapped together a propo and aired it repeatedly. My 
palms grow moist in anticipation of seeing myself on 
television. What if I'm still awful? What if I'm as stiff 
and pointless as I was in the studio and they've just 
given up on getting anything better? Individual 
screens slide up from the table, the lights dim 
slightly, and a hush falls over the room. 

At first, my screen is black. Then a tiny spark flickers 
in the center. It blossoms, spreads, silently eating up 
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the blackness until the entire frame is ablaze with a 
fire so real and intense, I imagine I feel the heat 
emanating from it. The image of my mockingjay pin 
emerges, glowing red-gold. The deep, resonant voice 
that haunts my dreams begins to speak. Claudius 
Templesmith, the official announcer of the Hunger 
Games, says, "Katniss Everdeen, the girl who was on 
fire, burns on." 

Suddenly, there I am, replacing the mockingjay, 
standing before the real flames and smoke of District 
8. "I want to tell the rebels that I am alive. That I'm 
right here in District Eight, where the Capitol has just 
bombed a hospital full of unarmed men, women, and 
children. There will be no survivors." Cut to the 
hospital collapsing in on itself, the desperation of the 
onlookers as I continue in voice-over. "I want to tell 
people that if you think for one second the Capitol will 
treat us fairly if there's a cease-fire, you're deluding 
yourself. Because you know who they are and what 
they do." Back to me now, my hands lifting up to 
indicate the outrage around me. "This is what they 
do! And we must fight back!" Now comes a truly 
fantastic montage of the battle. The initial bombs 
falling, us running, being blown to the ground— a 
close-up of my wound, which looks good and bloody- 
scaling the roof, diving into the nests, and then some 
amazing shots of the rebels, Gale, and mostly me, me, 
me knocking those planes out of the sky. Smash-cut 
back to me moving in on the camera. "President Snow 
says he's sending us a message? Well, I have one for 
him. You can torture us and bomb us and burn our 
districts to the ground, but do you see that?" We're 
with the camera, tracking to the planes burning on 
the roof of the warehouse. Tight on the Capitol seal on 
a wing, which melts back into the image of my face, 
shouting at the president. "Fire is catching! And if we 
burn, you burn with us!" Flames engulf the screen 



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again. Superimposed on them in black, solid letters 
are the words: 

IF WE BURN YOU 

BURN WITH US 

The words catch fire and the whole screen burns to 
blackness. 

There's a moment of silent relish, then applause 
followed by demands to see it again. Coin indulgently 
hits the replay button, and this time, since I know 
what will happen, I try to pretend that I'm watching 
this on my television at home in the Seam. An anti- 
Capitol statement. There's never been anything like it 
on television. Not in my lifetime, anyway. 

By the time the screen burns to black a second time, I 
need to know more. "Did it play all over Panem? Did 
they see it in the Capitol?" 

"Not in the Capitol," says Plutarch. "We couldn't 
override their system, although Beetee's working on 
it. But in all the districts. We even got it on in Two, 
which may be more valuable than the Capitol at this 
point in the game." 

"Is Claudius Templesmith with us?" I ask. 

This gives Plutarch a good laugh. "Only his voice. But 
that's ours for the taking. We didn't even have to do 
any special editing. He said that actual line in your 
first Games." He slaps his hand on the table. "What 
say we give another round of applause to Cressida, 
her amazing team, and, of course, our on-camera 
talent!" 



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I clap, too, until I realize I'm the on-camera talent and 
maybe it's obnoxious that I'm applauding for myself, 
but no one's paying attention. I can't help noticing the 
strain on Fulvia's face, though. I think how hard this 
must be for her, watching Haymitch's idea succeed 
under Cressida's direction, when Fulvia's studio 
approach was such a flop. 

Coin seems to have reached the end of her tolerance 
for self-congratulation. "Yes, well deserved. The result 
is more than we had hoped for. But I do have to 
question the wide margin of risk that you were willing 
to operate within. I know the raid was unforeseen. 
However, given the circumstances, I think we should 
discuss the decision to send Katniss into actual 
combat." 

The decision? To send me into combat? Then she 
doesn't know that I flagrantly disregarded orders, 
ripped out my earpiece, and gave my bodyguards the 
slip? What else have they kept from her? 

"It was a tough call," says Plutarch, furrowing his 
brow. "But the general consensus was that we weren't 
going to get anything worth using if we locked her in a 
bunker somewhere every time a gun went off." 

"And you're all right with that?" asks the president. 

Gale has to kick me under the table before I realize 
that she's talking to me. "Oh! Yeah, I'm completely all 
right with that. It felt good. Doing something for a 
change." 

"Well, let's be just a little more judicious with her 
exposure. Especially now that the Capitol knows what 
she can do," says Coin. There's a rumble of assent 
from around the table. 



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No one has ratted out Gale and me. Not Plutarch, 
whose authority we ignored. Not Boggs with his 
broken nose. Not the insects we led into fire. Not 
Haymitch— no, wait a minute. Haymitch is giving me a 
deadly smile and saying sweetly, "Yeah, we wouldn't 
want to lose our little Mockingjay when she's finally 
begun to sing." I make a note to myself not to end up 
alone in a room with him, because he's clearly having 
vengeful thoughts over that stupid earpiece. 

"So, what else do you have planned?" asks the 
president. 

Plutarch nods to Cressida, who consults a clipboard. 
"We have some terrific footage of Katniss at the 
hospital in Eight. There should be another propo in 
that with the theme 'Because you know who they are 
and what they do.' We'll focus on Katniss interacting 
with the patients, particularly the children, the 
bombing of the hospital, and the wreckage. Messalla's 
cutting that together. We're also thinking about a 
Mockingjay piece. Highlight some of Katniss's best 
moments intercut with scenes of rebel uprisings and 
war footage. We call that one 'Fire is catching.' And 
then Fulvia came up with a really brilliant idea." 

Fulvia's mouthful-of-sour-grapes expression is 
startled right off her face, but she recovers. "Well, I 
don't know how brilliant it is, but I was thinking we 
could do a series of propos called We Remember. In 
each one, we would feature one of the dead tributes. 
Little Rue from Eleven or old Mags from Four. The 
idea being that we could target each district with a 
very personal piece." 

"A tribute to your tributes, as it were," says Plutarch. 

"That is brilliant, Fulvia," I say sincerely. "It's the 
perfect way to remind people why they're fighting." 
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"I think it could work," she says. "I thought we might 
use Finnick to intro and narrate the spots. If there 
was interest in them." 



"Frankly, I don't see how we could have too many We 
Remember propos," says Coin. "Can you start 
producing them today?" 

"Of course," says Fulvia, obviously mollified by the 
response to her idea. 

Cressida has smoothed everything over in the creative 
department with her gesture. Praised Fulvia for what 
is, in fact, a really good idea, and cleared the way to 
continue her own on-air depiction of the Mockingjay. 
What's interesting is that Plutarch seems to have no 
need to share in the credit. All he wants is for the 
Airtime Assault to work. I remember that Plutarch is 
a Head Gamemaker, not a member of the crew. Not a 
piece in the Games. Therefore, his worth is not 
defined by a single element, but by the overall 
success of the production. If we win the war, that's 
when Plutarch will take his bow. And expect his 
reward. 

The president sends everyone off to get to work, so 
Gale wheels me back to the hospital. We laugh a little 
about the cover-up. Gale says no one wanted to look 
bad by admitting they couldn't control us. I'm kinder, 
saying they probably didn't want to jeopardize the 
chance of taking us out again now that they've gotten 
some decent footage. Both things are probably true. 
Gale has to go meet Beetee down in Special 
Weaponry, so I doze off. 

It seems like I've only shut my eyes for a few minutes, 
but when I open them, I flinch at the sight of 
Haymitch sitting a couple of feet from my bed. 
Waiting. Possibly for several hours if the clock is 



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right. I think about hollering for a witness, but I'm 
going to have to face him sooner or later. 

Haymitch leans forward and dangles something on a 
thin white wire in front of my nose. It's hard to focus 
on, but I'm pretty sure what it is. He drops it to the 
sheets. "That is your earpiece. I will give you exactly 
one more chance to wear it. If you remove it from your 
ear again, I'll have you fitted with this." He holds up 
some sort of metal headgear that I instantly name the 
head shackle. "It's an alternative audio unit that locks 
around your skull and under your chin until it's 
opened with a key. And I'll have the only key. If for 
some reason you're clever enough to disable it"— 
Haymitch dumps the head shackle on the bed and 
whips out a tiny silver chip— "I'll authorize them to 
surgically implant this transmitter into your ear so 
that I may speak to you twenty-four hours a day." 

Haymitch in my head full-time. Horrifying. "I'll keep 
the earpiece in," I mutter. 

"Excuse me?" he says. 

"I'll keep the earpiece in!" I say, loud enough to wake 
up half the hospital. 

"You sure? Because I'm equally happy with any of the 
three options," he tells me. 

"I'm sure," I say. I scrunch up the earpiece wire 
protectively in my fist and fling the head shackle back 
in his face with my free hand, but he catches it easily. 
Probably was expecting me to throw it. "Anything 
else?" 

Haymitch rises to go. "While I was waiting... I ate your 
lunch." 



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My eyes take in the empty stew bowl and tray on my 
bed table. "I'm going to report you," I mumble into my 
pillow. 



"You do that, sweetheart." He goes out, safe in the 
knowledge that I'm not the reporting kind. 

I want to go back to sleep, but I'm restless. Images 
from yesterday begin to flood into the present. The 
bombing, the fiery plane crashes, the faces of the 
wounded who no longer exist. I imagine death from all 
sides. The last moment before seeing a shell hit the 
ground, feeling the wing blown from my plane and the 
dizzying nosedive into oblivion, the warehouse roof 
falling down at me while I'm pinned helplessly to my 
cot. Things I saw, in person or on the tape. Things I 
caused with a pull of my bowstring. Things I will 
never be able to erase from my memory. 

At dinner, Finnick brings his tray to my bed so we 
can watch the newest propo together on television. He 
was assigned quarters on my old floor, but he has so 
many mental relapses, he still basically lives in the 
hospital. The rebels air the "Because you know who 
they are and what they do" propo that Messalla 
edited. The footage is intercut with short studio clips 
of Gale, Boggs, and Cressida describing the incident. 
It's hard to watch my reception in the hospital in 8 
since I know what's coming. When the bombs rain 
down on the roof, I bury my face in my pillow, looking 
up again at a brief clip of me at the end, after all the 
victims are dead. 

At least Finnick doesn't applaud or act all happy 
when it's done. He just says, "People should know 
that happened. And now they do." 

"Let's turn it off, Finnick, before they run it again," I 
urge him. But as Finnick's hand moves toward the 



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remote control, I cry, "Wait!" The Capitol is 
introducing a special segment and something about it 
looks familiar. Yes, it's Caesar Flickerman. And I can 
guess who his guest will be. 

Peeta's physical transformation shocks me. The 
healthy, clear-eyed boy I saw a few days ago has lost 
at least fifteen pounds and developed a nervous 
tremor in his hands. They've still got him groomed. 
But underneath the paint that cannot cover the bags 
under his eyes, and the fine clothes that cannot 
conceal the pain he feels when he moves, is a person 
badly damaged. 

My mind reels, trying to make sense of it. I just saw 
him! Four— no, five— I think it was five days ago. How 
has he deteriorated so rapidly? What could they 
possibly have done to him in such a short time? Then 
it hits me. I replay in my mind as much as I can of his 
first interview with Caesar, searching for anything 
that would place it in time. There is nothing. They 
could have taped that interview a day or two after I 
blew up the arena, then done whatever they wanted 
to do to him ever since. "Oh, Peeta..." I whisper. 

Caesar and Peeta have a few empty exchanges before 
Caesar asks him about rumors that I'm taping propos 
for the districts. "They're using her, obviously," says 
Peeta. "To whip up the rebels. I doubt she even really 
knows what's going on in the war. What's at stake." 

"Is there anything you'd like to tell her?" asks Caesar. 

"There is," says Peeta. He looks directly into the 
camera, right into my eyes. "Don't be a fool, Katniss. 
Think for yourself. They've turned you into a weapon 
that could be instrumental in the destruction of 
humanity. If you've got any real influence, use it to 
put the brakes on this thing. Use it to stop the war 
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before it's too late. Ask yourself, do you really trust 
the people you're working with? Do you really know 
what's going on? And if you don't... find out." 

Black screen. Seal of Panem. Show over. 

Finnick presses the button on the remote that kills 
the power. In a minute, people will be here to do 
damage control on Peeta's condition and the words 
that came out of his mouth. I will need to repudiate 
them. But the truth is, I don't trust the rebels or 
Plutarch or Coin. I'm not confident that they tell me 
the truth. I won't be able to conceal this. Footsteps 
are approaching. 

Finnick grips me hard by the arms. "We didn't see it." 
"What?" I ask. 

"We didn't see Peeta. Only the propo on Eight. Then 
we turned the set off because the images upset you. 
Got it?" he asks. I nod. "Finish your dinner." I pull 
myself together enough so that when Plutarch and 
Fulvia enter, I have a mouthful of bread and cabbage. 
Finnick is talking about how well Gale came across 
on camera. We congratulate them on the propo. Make 
it clear it was so powerful, we tuned out right 
afterward. They look relieved. They believe us. 

No one mentions Peeta. 



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I stop trying to sleep after my first few attempts are 
interrupted by unspeakable nightmares. After that, I 
just lie still and do fake breathing whenever someone 
checks on me. In the morning, I'm released from the 
hospital and instructed to take it easy. Cressida asks 
me to record a few lines for a new Mockingjay propo. 
At lunch, I keep waiting for people to bring up Peeta's 
appearance, but no one does. Someone must have 
seen it besides Finnick and me. 

I have training, but Gale's scheduled to work with 
Beetee on weapons or something, so I get permission 
to take Finnick to the woods. We wander around 
awhile and then ditch our communicators under a 
bush. When we're a safe distance away, we sit and 
discuss Peeta's broadcast. 

"I haven't heard one word about it. No one's told you 
anything?" Finnick says. I shake my head. He pauses 
before he asks, "Not even Gale?" I'm clinging to a 
shred of hope that Gale honestly knows nothing 
about Peeta's message. But I have a bad feeling he 
does. "Maybe he's trying to find a time to tell you 
privately." 

"Maybe," I say. 

We stay silent so long that a buck wanders into 
range. I take it down with an arrow. Finnick hauls it 
back to the fence. 

For dinner, there's minced venison in the stew. Gale 
walks me back to Compartment E after we eat. When 
I ask him what's been going on, again there's no 



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mention of Peeta. As soon as my mother and sister 
are asleep, I slip the pearl from the drawer and spend 
a second sleepless night clutching it in my hand, 
replaying Peeta's words in my head. "Ask yourself, do 
you really trust the people you're working with? Do 
you really know what's going on? And if you 
don't... find out." Find out. What? From who? And how 
can Peeta know anything except what the Capitol tells 
him? It's just a Capitol propo. More noise. But if 
Plutarch thinks it's just the Capitol line, why didn't 
he tell me about it? Why hasn't anyone let me or 
Finnick know? 

Under this debate lies the real source of my distress: 
Peeta. What have they done to him? And what are 
they doing to him right now? Clearly, Snow did not 
buy the story that Peeta and I knew nothing about 
the rebellion. And his suspicions have been 
reinforced, now that I have come out as the 
Mockingjay. Peeta can only guess about the rebel 
tactics or make up things to tell his torturers. Lies, 
once discovered, would be severely punished. How 
abandoned by me he must feel. In his first interview, 
he tried to protect me from the Capitol and rebels 
alike, and not only have I failed to protect him, I've 
brought down more horrors upon him. 

Come morning, I stick my forearm in the wall and 
stare groggily at the day's schedule. Immediately after 
breakfast, I am slated for Production. In the dining 
hall, as I down my hot grain and milk and mushy 
beets, I spot a communicuff on Gale's wrist. "When 
did you get that back, Soldier Hawthorne?" I ask. 

"Yesterday. They thought if I'm going to be in the field 
with you, it could be a backup system of 
communication," says Gale. 



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No one has ever offered me a communicuff. I wonder, 
if I asked for one, would I get it? "Well, I guess one of 
us has to be accessible," I say with an edge to my 
voice. 

"What's that mean?" he says. 

"Nothing. Just repeating what you said," I tell him. 
"And I totally agree that the accessible one should be 
you. I just hope I still have access to you as well." 

Our eyes lock, and I realize how furious I am with 
Gale. That I don't believe for a second that he didn't 
see Peeta's propo. That I feel completely betrayed that 
he didn't tell me about it. We know each other too 
well for him not to read my mood and guess what has 
caused it. 

"Katniss--" he begins. Already the admission of guilt 
is in his tone. 

I grab my tray, cross to the deposit area, and slam the 
dishes onto the rack. By the time I'm in the hallway, 
he's caught up with me. 

"Why didn't you say something?" he asks, taking my 
arm. 

"Why didn't I?" I jerk my arm free. "Why didn't you, 
Gale? And I did, by the way, when I asked you last 
night about what had been going on!" 

"I'm sorry. All right? I didn't know what to do. I 
wanted to tell you, but everyone was afraid that 
seeing Peeta's propo would make you sick," he says. 

"They were right. It did. But not quite as sick as you 
lying to me for Coin." At that moment, his 



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communicuff starts beeping. "There she is. Better 
run. You have things to tell her." 



For a moment, real hurt registers on his face. Then 
cold anger replaces it. He turns on his heel and goes. 
Maybe I have been too spiteful, not given him enough 
time to explain. Maybe everyone is just trying to 
protect me by lying to me. I don't care. I'm sick of 
people lying to me for my own good. Because really 
it's mostly for their own good. Lie to Katniss about the 
rebellion so she doesn't do anything crazy. Send her 
into the arena without a clue so we can fish her out. 
Don't tell her about Peeta's propo because it might 
make her sick, and it's hard enough to get a decent 
performance out of her as it is. 

I do feel sick. Heartsick. And too tired for a day of 
production. But I'm already at Remake, so I go in. 
Today, I discover, we will be returning to District 12. 
Cressida wants to do unscripted interviews with Gale 
and me throwing light on our demolished city. 

"If you're both up for that," says Cressida, looking 
closely at my face. 

"Count me in," I say. I stand, uncommunicative and 
stiff, a mannequin, as my prep team dresses me, does 
my hair, and dabs makeup on my face. Not enough to 
show, only enough to take the edge off the circles 
under my sleepless eyes. 

Boggs escorts me down to the Hangar, but we don't 
talk beyond a preliminary greeting. I'm grateful to be 
spared another exchange about my disobedience in 8, 
especially since his mask looks so uncomfortable. 

At the last moment, I remember to send a message to 
my mother about my leaving 13, and stress that it 
won't be dangerous. We board a hovercraft for the 



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short ride to 12 and I'm directed to a seat at a table 
where Plutarch, Gale, and Cressida are poring over a 
map. Plutarch's brimming with satisfaction as he 
shows me the before/ after effects of the first couple of 
propos. The rebels, who were barely maintaining a 
foothold in several districts, have rallied. They have 
actually taken 3 and 1 l--the latter so crucial since it's 
Panem's main food supplier— and have made inroads 
in several other districts as well. 

"Hopeful. Very hopeful indeed," says Plutarch. 
"Fulvia's going to have the first round of We 
Remember spots ready tonight, so we can target the 
individual districts with their dead. Finnick's 
absolutely marvelous." 

"It's painful to watch, actually," says Cressida. "He 
knew so many of them personally." 

"That's what makes it so effective," says Plutarch. 
"Straight from the heart. You're all doing beautifully. 
Coin could not be more pleased." 

Gale didn't tell them, then. About my pretending not 
to see Peeta and my anger at their cover-up. But I 
guess it's too little, too late, because I still can't let it 
go. It doesn't matter. He's not speaking to me, either. 

It's not until we land in the Meadow that I realize 
Haymitch isn't among our company. When I ask 
Plutarch about his absence, he just shakes his head 
and says, "He couldn't face it." 

"Haymitch? Not able to face something? Wanted a day 
off, more likely," I say. 

"I think his actual words were 'I couldn't face it 
without a bottle,'" says Plutarch. 



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I roll my eyes, long out of patience with my mentor, 
his weakness for drink, and what he can or can't 
confront. But about five minutes after my return to 
12, I'm wishing I had a bottle myself. I thought I'd 
come to terms with 12's demise— heard of it, seen it 
from the air, and wandered through its ashes. So why 
does everything bring on a fresh pang of grief? Was I 
simply too out of it before to fully register the loss of 
my world? Or is it the look on Gale's face as he takes 
in the destruction on foot that makes the atrocity feel 
brand-new? 

Cressida directs the team to start with me at my old 
house. I ask her what she wants me to do. "Whatever 
you feel like," she says. Standing back in my kitchen, 
I don't feel like doing anything. In fact, I find myself 
focusing up at the sky— the only roof left— because too 
many memories are drowning me. After a while, 
Cressida says, "That's fine, Katniss. Let's move on." 

Gale doesn't get off so easily at his old address. 
Cressida films him in silence for a few minutes, but 
just as he pulls the one remnant of his previous life 
from the ashes— a twisted metal poker— she starts to 
question him about his family, his job, life in the 
Seam. She makes him go back to the night of the 
firebombing and reenact it, starting at his house, 
working his way down across the Meadow and 
through the woods to the lake. I straggle behind the 
film crew and the bodyguards, feeling their presence 
to be a violation of my beloved woods. This is a 
private place, a sanctuary, already corrupted by the 
Capitol's evil. Even after we've left behind the charred 
stumps near the fence, we're still tripping over 
decomposing bodies. Do we have to record it for 
everyone to see? 

By the time we reach the lake, Gale seems to have 
lost his ability to speak. Everyone's dripping in sweat- 
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-especially Castor and Pollux in their insect shells— 
and Cressida calls for a break. I scoop up handfuls of 
water from the lake, wishing I could dive in and 
surface alone and naked and unobserved. I wander 
around the perimeter for a while. When I come back 
around to the little concrete house beside the lake, I 
pause in the doorway and see Gale propping the 
crooked poker he salvaged against the wall by the 
hearth. For a moment I have an image of a lone 
stranger, sometime far in the future, wandering lost 
in the wilderness and coming upon this small place of 
refuge, with the pile of split logs, the hearth, the 
poker. Wondering how it came to be. Gale turns and 
meets my eyes and I know he's thinking about our 
last meeting here. When we fought over whether or 
not to run away. If we had, would District 12 still be 
there? I think it would. But the Capitol would still be 
in control of Panem as well. 

Cheese sandwiches are passed around and we eat 
them in the shade of the trees. I intentionally sit at 
the far edge of the group, next to Pollux, so I don't 
have to talk. No one's talking much, really. In the 
relative quiet, the birds take back the woods. I nudge 
Pollux with my elbow and point out a small black bird 
with a crown. It hops to a new branch, momentarily 
opening its wings, showing off its white patches. 
Pollux gestures to my pin and raises his eyebrows 
questioningly. I nod, confirming it's a mockingjay. I 
hold up one finger to say Wait, I'll show you, and 
whistle a birdcall. The mockingjay cocks its head and 
whistles the call right back at me. Then, to my 
surprise, Pollux whistles a few notes of his own. The 
bird answers him immediately. Pollux's face breaks 
into an expression of delight and he has a series of 
melodic exchanges with the mockingjay. My guess is 
it's the first conversation he's had in years. Music 
draws mockingjays like blossoms do bees, and in a 
short while he's got half a dozen of them perched in 
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the branches over our heads. He taps me on the arm 
and uses a twig to write a word in the dirt. SING? 

Usually, I'd decline, but it's kind of impossible to say 
no to Pollux, given the circumstances. Besides, the 
mockingjays' song voices are different from their 
whistles, and I'd like him to hear them. So, before I 
actually think about what I'm doing, I sing Rue's four 
notes, the ones she used to signal the end of the 
workday in 1 1 . The notes that ended up as the 
background music to her murder. The birds don't 
know that. They pick up the simple phrase and 
bounce it back and forth between them in sweet 
harmony. Just as they did in the Hunger Games 
before the muttations broke through the trees, chased 
us onto the Cornucopia, and slowly gnawed Cato to a 
bloody pulp— 

"Want to hear them do a real song?" I burst out. 
Anything to stop those memories. I'm on my feet, 
moving back into the trees, resting my hand on the 
rough trunk of a maple where the birds perch. I have 
not sung "The Hanging Tree" out loud for ten years, 
because it's forbidden, but I remember every word. I 
begin softly, sweetly, as my father did. 

"Are you, are you 
Coming to the tree 

Where they strung up a man they say murdered 
three. 

Strange things did happen here 
No stranger would it be 

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree." 

The mockingjays begin to alter their songs as they 
become aware of my new offering. 



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"Are you, are you 
Coming to the tree 

Where the dead man called out for his love to flee. 
Strange things did happen here 
No stranger would it be 

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree." 

I have the birds' attention now. In one more verse, 
surely they will have captured the melody, as it's 
simple and repeats four times with little variation. 

"Are you, are you 
Coming to the tree 

Where I told you to run, so we'd both be free. 
Strange things did happen here 
No stranger would it be 

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree." 

A hush in the trees. Just the rustle of leaves in the 
breeze. But no birds, mockingjay or other. Peeta's 
right. They do fall silent when I sing. Just as they did 
for my father. 

"Are you, are you 
Coming to the tree 

Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me. 
Strange things did happen here 
No stranger would it be 

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree." 

The birds are waiting for me to continue. But that's it. 
Last verse. In the stillness I remember the scene. I 
was home from a day in the woods with my father. 



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Sitting on the floor with Prim, who was just a toddler, 
singing "The Hanging Tree." Making us necklaces out 
of scraps of old rope like it said in the song, not 
knowing the real meaning of the words. The tune was 
simple and easy to harmonize to, though, and back 
then I could memorize almost anything set to music 
after a round or two. Suddenly, my mother snatched 
the rope necklaces away and was yelling at my father. 
I started to cry because my mother never yelled, and 
then Prim was wailing and I ran outside to hide. As I 
had exactly one hiding spot— in the Meadow under a 
honeysuckle bush— my father found me immediately. 
He calmed me down and told me everything was fine, 
only we'd better not sing that song anymore. My 
mother just wanted me to forget it. So, of course, 
every word was immediately, irrevocably branded into 
my brain. 

We didn't sing it anymore, my father and I, or even 
speak of it. After he died, it used to come back to me 
a lot. Being older, I began to understand the lyrics. At 
the beginning, it sounds like a guy is trying to get his 
girlfriend to secretly meet up with him at midnight. 
But it's an odd place for a tryst, a hanging tree, where 
a man was hung for murder. The murderer's lover 
must have had something to do with the killing, or 
maybe they were just going to punish her anyway, 
because his corpse called out for her to flee. That's 
weird obviously, the talking-corpse bit, but it's not 
until the third verse that "The Hanging Tree" begins to 
get unnerving. You realize the singer of the song is 
the dead murderer. He's still in the hanging tree. And 
even though he told his lover to flee, he keeps asking 
if she's coming to meet him. The phrase Where I told 
you to run, so we'd both be free is the most troubling 
because at first you think he's talking about when he 
told her to flee, presumably to safety. But then you 
wonder if he meant for her to run to him. To death. In 
the final stanza, it's clear that that's what he's waiting 
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for. His lover, with her rope necklace, hanging dead 
next to him in the tree. 



I used to think the murderer was the creepiest guy 
imaginable. Now, with a couple of trips to the Hunger 
Games under my belt, I decide not to judge him 
without knowing more details. Maybe his lover was 
already sentenced to death and he was trying to make 
it easier. To let her know he'd be waiting. Or maybe 
he thought the place he was leaving her was really 
worse than death. Didn't I want to kill Peeta with that 
syringe to save him from the Capitol? Was that really 
my only option? Probably not, but I couldn't think of 
another at the time. 

I guess my mother thought the whole thing was too 
twisted for a seven-year-old, though. Especially one 
who made her own rope necklaces. It wasn't like 
hanging was something that only happened in a 
story. Plenty of people were executed that way in 12. 
You can bet she didn't want me singing it in front of 
my music class. She probably wouldn't like me doing 
it here for Pollux even, but at least I'm not— wait, no, 
I'm wrong. As I glance sideways, I see Castor has been 
taping me. Everyone is watching me intently. And 
Pollux has tears running down his cheeks because no 
doubt my freaky song has dredged up some terrible 
incident in his life. Great. I sigh and lean back 
against the trunk. That's when the mockingjays begin 
their rendition of "The Hanging Tree." In their 
mouths, it's quite beautiful. Conscious of being 
filmed, I stand quietly until I hear Cressida call, 
"Cut!" 

Plutarch crosses to me, laughing. "Where do you 
come up with this stuff? No one would believe it if we 
made it up!" He throws an arm around me and kisses 
me on the top of my head with a loud smack. "You're 
golden!" 



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"I wasn't doing it for the cameras," I say. 



"Lucky they were on, then," he says. "Come on, 
everybody, back to town!" 

As we trudge back through the woods, we reach a 
boulder, and both Gale and I turn our heads in the 
same direction, like a pair of dogs catching a scent on 
the wind. Cressida notices and asks what lies that 
way. We admit, without acknowledging each other, 
it's our old hunting rendezvous place. She wants to 
see it, even after we tell her it's nothing really. 

Nothing but a place where I was happy, I think. 

Our rock ledge overlooking the valley. Perhaps a little 
less green than usual, but the blackberry bushes 
hang heavy with fruit. Here began countless days of 
hunting and snaring, fishing and gathering, roaming 
together through the woods, unloading our thoughts 
while we filled our game bags. This was the doorway 
to both sustenance and sanity. And we were each 
other's key. 

There's no District 12 to escape from now, no 
Peacekeepers to trick, no hungry mouths to feed. The 
Capitol took away all of that, and I'm on the verge of 
losing Gale as well. The glue of mutual need that 
bonded us so tightly together for all those years is 
melting away. Dark patches, not light, show in the 
spaces between us. How can it be that today, in the 
face of 12's horrible demise, we are too angry to even 
speak to each other? 

Gale as good as lied to me. That was unacceptable, 
even if he was concerned about my well-being. His 
apology seemed genuine, though. And I threw it back 
in his face with an insult to make sure it stung. What 
is happening to us? Why are we always at odds now? 



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It's all a muddle, but I somehow feel that if I went 
back to the root of our troubles, my actions would be 
at the heart of it. Do I really want to drive him away? 

My fingers encircle a blackberry and pluck it from its 
stem. I roll it gently between my thumb and 
forefinger. Suddenly, I turn to him and toss it in his 
direction. "And may the odds—" I say. I throw it high 
so he has plenty of time to decide whether to knock it 
aside or accept it. 

Gale's eyes train on me, not the berry, but at the last 
moment, he opens his mouth and catches it. He 
chews, swallows, and there's a long pause before he 
says "—be ever in your favor." But he does say it. 

Cressida has us sit in the nook in the rocks, where 
it's impossible not to be touching, and coaxes us into 
talking about hunting. What drove us out into the 
woods, how we met, favorite moments. We thaw, 
begin to laugh a little, as we relate mishaps with bees 
and wild dogs and skunks. When the conversation 
turns to how it felt to translate our skill with weapons 
to the bombing in 8, I stop talking. Gale just says, 
"Long overdue." 

By the time we reach the town square, afternoon's 
sinking into evening. I take Cressida to the rubble of 
the bakery and ask her to film something. The only 
emotion I can muster is exhaustion. "Peeta, this is 
your home. None of your family has been heard of 
since the bombing. Twelve is gone. And you're calling 
for a cease-fire?" I look across the emptiness. "There's 
no one left to hear you." 

As we stand before the lump of metal that was the 
gallows, Cressida asks if either of us has ever been 
tortured. In answer, Gale pulls off his shirt and turns 
his back to the camera. I stare at the lash marks, and 



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again hear the whistling of the whip, see his bloody 
figure hanging unconscious by his wrists. 

"I'm done," I announce. "I'll meet you at the Victor's 
Village. Something for... my mother." 

I guess I walked here, but the next thing I'm 
conscious of is sitting on the floor in front of the 
kitchen cabinets of our house in the Victor's Village. 
Meticulously lining ceramic jars and glass bottles into 
a box. Placing clean cotton bandages between them to 
prevent breaking. Wrapping bunches of dried flowers. 

Suddenly, I remember the rose on my dresser. Was it 
real? If so, is it still up there? I have to resist the 
temptation to check. If it's there, it will only frighten 
me all over again. I hurry with my packing. 

When the cabinets are empty, I rise to find that Gale 
has materialized in my kitchen. It's disturbing how 
soundlessly he can appear. He's leaning on the table, 
his fingers spread wide against the wood grain. I set 
the box between us. "Remember?" he asks. "This is 
where you kissed me." 

So the heavy dose of morphling administered after the 
whipping wasn't enough to erase that from his 
consciousness. "I didn't think you'd remember that," I 
say. 

"Have to be dead to forget. Maybe even not then," he 
tells me. "Maybe I'll be like that man in 'The Hanging 
Tree.' Still waiting for an answer." Gale, who I have 
never seen cry, has tears in his eyes. To keep them 
from spilling over, I reach forward and press my lips 
against his. We taste of heat, ashes, and misery. It's a 
surprising flavor for such a gentle kiss. He pulls away 
first and gives me a wry smile. "I knew you'd kiss me." 



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"How?" I say. Because I didn't know myself. 



"Because I'm in pain," he says. "That's the only way I 
get your attention." He picks up the box. "Don't worry, 
Katniss. It'll pass." He leaves before I can answer. 

I'm too weary to work through his latest charge. I 
spend the short ride back to 13 curled up in a seat, 
trying to ignore Plutarch going on about one of his 
favorite subjects— weapons mankind no longer has at 
its disposal. High-flying planes, military satellites, cell 
disintegrators, drones, biological weapons with 
expiration dates. Brought down by the destruction of 
the atmosphere or lack of resources or moral 
squeamishness. You can hear the regret of a Head 
Gamemaker who can only dream of such toys, who 
must make do with hovercraft and land-to-land 
missiles and plain old guns. 

After dropping off my Mockingjay suit, I go straight to 
bed without eating. Even so, Prim has to shake me to 
get me up in the morning. After breakfast, I ignore my 
schedule and take a nap in the supply closet. When I 
come to, crawling out from between the boxes of 
chalk and pencils, it's dinnertime again. I get an 
extra-large portion of pea soup and am headed back 
to Compartment E when Boggs intercepts me. 

"There's a meeting in Command. Disregard your 
current schedule," he says. 

"Done," I say. 

"Did you follow it at all today?" he asks in 
exasperation. 

"Who knows? I'm mentally disoriented." I hold up my 
wrist to show my medical bracelet and realize it's 
gone. "See? I can't even remember they took my 



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bracelet. Why do they want me in Command? Did I 
miss something?" 

"I think Cressida wanted to show you the Twelve 
propos. But I guess you'll see them when they air," he 
says. 

"That's what I need a schedule of. When the propos 
air," I say. He shoots me a look but doesn't comment 
further. 

People have crowded into Command, but they've 
saved me a seat between Finnick and Plutarch. The 
screens are already up on the table, showing the 
regular Capitol feed. 

"What's going on? Aren't we seeing the Twelve 
propos?" I ask. 

"Oh, no," says Plutarch. "I mean, possibly. I don't 
know exactly what footage Beetee plans to use." 

"Beetee thinks he's found a way to break into the feed 
nationwide," says Finnick. "So that our propos will air 
in the Capitol, too. He's down working on it in Special 
Defense now. There's live programming tonight. 
Snow's making an appearance or something. I think 
it's starting." 

The Capitol seal appears, underscored by the anthem. 
Then I'm staring directly into President Snow's snake 
eyes as he greets the nation. He seems barricaded 
behind his podium, but the white rose in his lapel is 
in full view. The camera pulls back to include Peeta, 
off to one side in front of a projected map of Panem. 
He's sitting in an elevated chair, his shoes supported 
by a metal rung. The foot of his prosthetic leg taps 
out a strange irregular beat. Beads of sweat have 
broken through the layer of powder on his upper lip 



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and forehead. But it's the look in his eyes— angry yet 
unfocused— that frightens me the most. 

"He's worse," I whisper. Finnick grasps my hand, to 
give me an anchor, and I try to hang on. 

Peeta begins to speak in a frustrated tone about the 
need for the cease-fire. He highlights the damage 
done to key infrastructure in various districts, and as 
he speaks, parts of the map light up, showing images 
of the destruction. A broken dam in 7. A derailed 
train with a pool of toxic waste spilling from the tank 
cars. A granary collapsing after a fire. All of these he 
attributes to rebel action. 

Bam! Without warning, I'm suddenly on television, 
standing in the rubble of the bakery. 

Plutarch jumps to his feet. "He did it! Beetee broke 
in!" 

The room's buzzing with reaction when Peeta' s back, 
distracted. He has seen me on the monitor. He tries to 
pick up his speech by moving on to the bombing of a 
water purification plant, when a clip of Finnick 
talking about Rue replaces him. And then the whole 
thing breaks down into a broadcast battle, as the 
Capitol tech masters try to fend off Beetee's attack. 
But they are unprepared, and Beetee, apparently 
anticipating he would not hold on to control, has an 
arsenal of five- to ten-second clips to work with. We 
watch the official presentation deteriorate as it's 
peppered with choice shots from the propos. 

Plutarch's in spasms of delight and most everybody is 
cheering Beetee on, but Finnick remains still and 
speechless beside me. I meet Haymitch's eyes from 
across the room and see my own dread mirrored 



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back. The recognition that with every cheer, Peeta 
slips even farther from our grasp. 

The Capitol seal's back up, accompanied by a flat 
audio tone. This lasts about twenty seconds before 
Snow and Peeta return. The set is in turmoil. We're 
hearing frantic exchanges from their booth. Snow 
plows forward, saying that clearly the rebels are now 
attempting to disrupt the dissemination of 
information they find incriminating, but both truth 
and justice will reign. The full broadcast will resume 
when security has been reinstated. He asks Peeta if, 
given tonight's demonstration, he has any parting 
thoughts for Katniss Everdeen. 

At the mention of my name, Peeta' s face contorts in 
effort. "Katniss... how do you think this will end? What 
will be left? No one is safe. Not in the Capitol. Not in 
the districts. And you... in Thirteen..." He inhales 
sharply, as if fighting for air; his eyes look insane. 
"Dead by morning!" 

Off camera, Snow orders, "End it!" Beetee throws the 
whole thing into chaos by flashing a still shot of me 
standing in front of the hospital at three-second 
intervals. But between the images, we are privy to the 
real-life action being played out on the set. Peeta's 
attempt to continue speaking. The camera knocked 
down to record the white tiled floor. The scuffle of 
boots. The impact of the blow that's inseparable from 
Peeta's cry of pain. 

And his blood as it splatters the tiles. 



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PART II 
"THE THE ASSULT 



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10 



The scream begins in my lower back and works its 
way up through my body only to jam in my throat. I 
am Avox mute, choking on my grief. Even if I could 
release the muscles in my neck, let the sound tear 
into space, would anyone notice it? The room's in an 
uproar. Questions and demands ring out as they try 
to decipher Peeta's words. "And you... in 
Thirteen... dead by morning!" Yet no one is asking 
about the messenger whose blood has been replaced 
by static. 

A voice calls the others to attention. "Shut up!" Every 
pair of eyes falls on Haymitch. "It's not some big 
mystery! The boy's telling us we're about to be 
attacked. Here. In Thirteen." 

"How would he have that information?" 

"Why should we trust him?" 

"How do you know?" 

Haymitch gives a growl of frustration. "They're beating 
him bloody while we speak. What more do you need? 
Katniss, help me out here!" 

I have to give myself a shake to free my words. 
"Haymitch's right. I don't know where Peeta got the 
information. Or if it's true. But he believes it is. And 
they're—" I can't say aloud what Snow's doing to him. 

"You don't know him," Haymitch says to Coin. "We do. 
Get your people ready." 



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The president doesn't seem alarmed, only somewhat 
perplexed, by this turn in events. She mulls over the 
words, tapping one finger lightly on the rim of the 
control board in front of her. When she speaks, she 
addresses Haymitch in an even voice. "Of course, we 
have prepared for such a scenario. Although we have 
decades of support for the assumption that further 
direct attacks on Thirteen would be 
counterproductive to the Capitol's cause. Nuclear 
missiles would release radiation into the atmosphere, 
with incalculable environmental results. Even routine 
bombing could badly damage our military compound, 
which we know they hope to regain. And, of course, 
they invite a counterstrike. It is conceivable that, 
given our current alliance with the rebels, those 
would be viewed as acceptable risks." 

"You think so?" says Haymitch. It's a shade too 
sincere, but the subtleties of irony are often wasted in 
13. 

"I do. At any rate, we're overdue for a Level Five 
security drill," says Coin. "Let's proceed with the 
lockdown. " She begins to type rapidly on her 
keyboard, authorizing her decision. The moment she 
raises her head, it begins. 

There have been two low-level drills since I arrived in 
13. I don't remember much about the first. I was in 
intensive care in the hospital and I think the patients 
were exempted, as the complications of removing us 
for a practice drill outweighed the benefits. I was 
vaguely aware of a mechanical voice instructing 
people to congregate in yellow zones. During the 
second, a Level Two drill meant for minor crises— such 
as a temporary quarantine while citizens were tested 
for contagion during a flu outbreak— we were 
supposed to return to our living quarters. I stayed 
behind a pipe in the laundry room, ignored the 
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pulsating beeps coming over the audio system, and 
watched a spider construct a web. Neither experience 
has prepared me for the wordless, eardrum-piercing, 
fear-inducing sirens that now permeate 13. There 
would be no disregarding this sound, which seems 
designed to throw the whole population into a frenzy. 
But this is 13 and that doesn't happen. 

Boggs guides Finnick and me out of Command, along 
the hall to a doorway, and onto a wide stairway. 
Streams of people are converging to form a river that 
flows only downward. No one shrieks or tries to push 
ahead. Even the children don't resist. We descend, 
flight after flight, speechless, because no word could 
be heard above this sound. I look for my mother and 
Prim, but it's impossible to see anyone but those 
immediately around me. They're both working in the 
hospital tonight, though, so there's no way they can 
miss the drill. 

My ears pop and my eyes feel heavy. We are coal-mine 
deep. The only plus is that the farther we retreat into 
the earth, the less shrill the sirens become. It's as if 
they were meant to physically drive us away from the 
surface, which I suppose they are. Groups of people 
begin to peel off into marked doorways and still Boggs 
directs me downward, until finally the stairs end at 
the edge of an enormous cavern. I start to walk 
straight in and Boggs stops me, shows me that I must 
wave my schedule in front of a scanner so that I'm 
accounted for. No doubt the information's going to 
some computer somewhere to make sure no one's 
gone astray. 

The place seems unable to decide if it's natural or 
man-made. Certain areas of the walls are stone, while 
steel beams and concrete heavily reinforce others. 
Sleeping bunks are hewn right into the rock walls. 



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There's a kitchen, bathrooms, a first-aid station. This 
place was designed for an extended stay. 

White signs with letters or numbers are placed at 
intervals around the cavern. As Boggs tells Finnick 
and me to report to the area that matches our 
assigned quarters--in my case E for Compartment E— 
Plutarch strolls up. "Ah, here you are," he says. 
Recent events have had little effect on Plutarch's 
mood. He still has a happy glow from Beetee's success 
on the Airtime Assault. Eyes on the forest, not on the 
trees. Not on Peeta's punishment or 13's imminent 
blasting. "Katniss, obviously this is a bad moment for 
you, what with Peeta's setback, but you need to be 
aware that others will be watching you." 

"What?" I say. I can't believe he actually just 
downgraded Peeta's dire circumstances to a setback. 

"The other people in the bunker, they'll be taking 
their cue on how to react from you. If you're calm and 
brave, others will try to be as well. If you panic, it 
could spread like wildfire," explains Plutarch. I just 
stare at him. "Fire is catching, so to speak," he 
continues, as if I'm being slow on the uptake. 

"Why don't I just pretend I'm on camera, Plutarch?" I 
say. 

"Yes! Perfect. One is always much braver with an 
audience," he says. "Look at the courage Peeta just 
displayed!" 

It's all I can do not to slap him. 

"I've got to get back to Coin before lockdown. You 
keep up the good work!" he says, and then heads off. 



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I cross to the big letter E posted on the wall. Our 
space consists of a twelve-by-twelve-foot square of 
stone floor delineated by painted lines. Carved into 
the wall are two bunks— one of us will be sleeping on 
the floor— and a ground-level cube space for storage. A 
piece of white paper, coated in clear plastic, reads 
BUNKER PROTOCOL. I stare fixedly at the little black 
specks on the sheet. For a while, they're obscured by 
the residual blood droplets that I can't seem to wipe 
from my vision. Slowly, the words come into focus. 
The first section is entitled "On Arrival." 

• 1 . Make sure all members of your Compartment 
are accounted for. 

My mother and Prim haven't arrived, but I was one of 
the first people to reach the bunker. Both of them are 
probably helping to relocate hospital patients. 

• 2. Go to the Supply Station and secure one 
pack for each member of your Compartment. 
Ready your Living Area. Return pack(s) . 

I scan the cavern until I locate the Supply Station, a 
deep room set off by a counter. People wait behind it, 
but there's not a lot of activity there yet. I walk over, 
give our compartment letter, and request three packs. 
A man checks a sheet, pulls the specified packs from 
shelving, and swings them up onto the counter. After 
sliding one on my back and getting a grip on the other 
two with my hands, I turn to find a group rapidly 
forming behind me. "Excuse me," I say as I carry my 
supplies through the others. Is it a matter of timing? 
Or is Plutarch right? Are these people modeling their 
behavior on mine? 

Back at our space, I open one of the packs to find a 
thin mattress, bedding, two sets of gray clothing, a 
toothbrush, a comb, and a flashlight. On examining 
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the contents of the other packs, I find the only 
discernible difference is that they contain both gray 
and white outfits. The latter will be for my mother and 
Prim, in case they have medical duties. After I make 
up the beds, store the clothes, and return the 
backpacks, I've got nothing to do but observe the last 
rule. 

• 3. Await further instructions. 

I sit cross-legged on the floor to await. A steady flow 
of people begins to fill the room, claiming spaces, 
collecting supplies. It won't take long until the place 
is full up. I wonder if my mother and Prim are going 
to stay the night at wherever the hospital patients 
have been taken. But, no, I don't think so. They were 
on the list here. I'm starting to get anxious, when my 
mother appears. I look behind her into a sea of 
strangers. "Where's Prim?" I ask. 

"Isn't she here?" she replies. "She was supposed to 
come straight down from the hospital. She left ten 
minutes before I did. Where is she? Where could she 
have gone?" 

I squeeze my lids shut tight for a moment, to track 
her as I would prey on a hunt. See her react to the 
sirens, rush to help the patients, nod as they gesture 
for her to descend to the bunker, and then hesitate 
with her on the stairs. Torn for a moment. But why? 

My eyes fly open. "The cat! She went back for him!" 

"Oh, no," my mother says. We both know I'm right. 
We're pushing against the incoming tide, trying to get 
out of the bunker. Up ahead, I can see them 
preparing to shut the thick metal doors. Slowly 
rotating the metal wheels on either side inward. 
Somehow I know that once they have been sealed, 
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nothing in the world will convince the soldiers to open 
them. Perhaps it will even be beyond their control. I'm 
indiscriminately shoving people aside as I shout for 
them to wait. The space between the doors shrinks to 
a yard, a foot; there are only a few inches left when I 
jam my hand through the crack. 

"Open it! Let me out!" I cry. 

Consternation shows on the soldiers' faces as they 
reverse the wheels a bit. Not enough to let me pass, 
but enough to avoid crushing my fingers. I take the 
opportunity to wedge my shoulder into the opening. 
"Prim!" I holler up the stairs. My mother pleads with 
the guards as I try to wriggle my way out. "Prim!" 

Then I hear it. The faint sound of footsteps on the 
stairs. "We're coming!" I hear my sister call. 

"Hold the door!" That was Gale. 

"They're coming!" I tell the guards, and they slide the 
doors open about a foot. But I don't dare move— afraid 
they'll lock us all out— until Prim appears, her cheeks 
flushed with running, hauling Buttercup. I pull her 
inside and Gale follows, twisting an armload of 
baggage sideways to get it into the bunker. The doors 
are closed with a loud and final clank. 

"What were you thinking?" I give Prim an angry shake 
and then hug her, squashing Buttercup between us. 

Prim's explanation is already on her lips. "I couldn't 
leave him behind, Katniss. Not twice. You should 
have seen him pacing the room and howling. He'd 
come back to protect us." 

"Okay. Okay." I take a few breaths to calm myself, 

step back, and lift Buttercup by the scruff of the 

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neck. "I should've drowned you when I had the 
chance." His ears flatten and he raises a paw. I hiss 
before he gets a chance, which seems to annoy him a 
little, since he considers hissing his own personal 
sound of contempt. In retaliation, he gives a helpless 
kitten mew that brings my sister immediately to his 
defense. 

"Oh, Katniss, don't tease him," she says, folding him 
back in her arms. "He's already so upset." 

The idea that I've wounded the brute's tiny cat 
feelings just invites further taunting. But Prim's 
genuinely distressed for him. So instead, I visualize 
Buttercup's fur lining a pair of gloves, an image that 
has helped me deal with him over the years. "Okay, 
sorry. We're under the big E on the wall. Better get 
him settled in before he loses it." Prim hurries off, and 
I find myself face-to-face with Gale. He's holding the 
box of medical supplies from our kitchen in 12. Site of 
our last conversation, kiss, fallout, whatever. My 
game bag's slung across his shoulder. 

"If Peeta's right, these didn't stand a chance," he says. 

Peeta. Blood like raindrops on the window. Like wet 
mud on boots. 

"Thanks for... everything." I take our stuff. "What were 
you doing up in our rooms?" 

"Just double-checking," he says. "We're in Forty- 
Seven if you need me." 

Practically everyone withdrew to their spaces when 
the doors shut, so I get to cross to our new home with 
at least five hundred people watching me. I try to 
appear extra calm to make up for my frantic crashing 
through the crowd. Like that's fooling anyone. So 



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much for setting an example. Oh, who cares? They all 
think I'm nuts anyway. One man, who I think I 
knocked to the floor, catches my eye and rubs his 
elbow resentfully. I almost hiss at him, too. 

Prim has Buttercup installed on the lower bunk, 
draped in a blanket so that only his face pokes out. 
This is how he likes to be when there's thunder, the 
one thing that actually frightens him. My mother puts 
her box carefully in the cube. I crouch, my back 
supported by the wall, to check what Gale managed 
to rescue in my hunting bag. The plant book, the 
hunting jacket, my parents' wedding photo, and the 
personal contents of my drawer. My mockingjay pin 
now lives with Cinna's outfit, but there's the gold 
locket and the silver parachute with the spile and 
Peeta's pearl. I knot the pearl into the corner of the 
parachute, bury it deep in the recesses of the bag, as 
if it's Peeta's life and no one can take it away as long 
as I guard it. 

The faint sound of the sirens cuts off sharply. Coin's 
voice comes over the district audio system, thanking 
us all for an exemplary evacuation of the upper levels. 
She stresses that this is not a drill, as Peeta Mellark, 
the District 12 victor, has possibly made a televised 
reference to an attack on 13 tonight. 

That's when the first bomb hits. There's an initial 
sense of impact followed by an explosion that 
resonates in my innermost parts, the lining of my 
intestines, the marrow of my bones, the roots of my 
teeth. We're all going to die, I think. My eyes turn 
upward, expecting to see giant cracks race across the 
ceiling, massive chunks of stone raining down on us, 
but the bunker itself gives only a slight shudder. The 
lights go out and I experience the disorientation of 
total darkness. Speechless human sounds- 
spontaneous shrieks, ragged breaths, baby whimpers, 
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one musical bit of insane laughter— dance around in 
the charged air. Then there's a hum of a generator, 
and a dim wavering glow replaces the stark lighting 
that is the norm in 13. It's closer to what we had in 
our homes in 12, when the candles and fire burned 
low on a winter's night. 

I reach for Prim in the twilight, clamp my hand on her 
leg, and pull myself over to her. Her voice remains 
steady as she croons to Buttercup. "It's all right, 
baby, it's all right. We'll be okay down here." 

My mother wraps her arms around us. I allow myself 
to feel young for a moment and rest my head on her 
shoulder. "That was nothing like the bombs in Eight," 
I say. 

"Probably a bunker missile," says Prim, keeping her 
voice soothing for the cat's sake. "We learned about 
them during the orientation for new citizens. They're 
designed to penetrate deep in the ground before they 
go off. Because there's no point in bombing Thirteen 
on the surface anymore." 

"Nuclear?" I ask, feeling a chill run through me. 

"Not necessarily," says Prim. "Some just have a lot of 
explosives in them. But... it could be either kind, I 
guess." 

The gloom makes it hard to see the heavy metal doors 
at the end of the bunker. Would they be any 
protection against a nuclear attack? And even if they 
were one hundred percent effective at sealing out the 
radiation, which is really unlikely, would we ever be 
able to leave this place? The thought of spending 
whatever remains of my life in this stone vault 
horrifies me. I want to run madly for the door and 
demand to be released into whatever lies above. It's 



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pointless. They would never let me out, and I might 
start some kind of stampede. 

"We're so far down, I'm sure we're safe," says my 
mother wanly. Is she thinking of my father's being 
blown to nothingness in the mines? "It was a close 
call, though. Thank goodness Peeta had the 
wherewithal to warn us." 

The wherewithal. A general term that somehow 
includes everything that was needed for him to sound 
the alarm. The knowledge, the opportunity, the 
courage. And something else I can't define. Peeta 
seemed to have been waging a sort of battle in his 
mind, fighting to get the message out. Why? The ease 
with which he manipulates words is his greatest 
talent. Was his difficulty a result of his torture? 
Something more? Like madness? 

Coin's voice, perhaps a shade grimmer, fills the 
bunker, the volume level flickering with the lights. 
"Apparently, Peeta Mellark's information was sound 
and we owe him a great debt of gratitude. Sensors 
indicate the first missile was not nuclear, but very 
powerful. We expect more will follow. For the duration 
of the attack, citizens are to stay in their assigned 
areas unless otherwise notified." 

A soldier alerts my mother that she's needed in the 
first-aid station. She's reluctant to leave us, even 
though she'll only be thirty yards away. 

"We'll be fine, really," I tell her. "Do you think 
anything could get past him?" I point to Buttercup, 
who gives me such a halfhearted hiss, we all have to 
laugh a little. Even I feel sorry for him. After my 
mother goes, I suggest, "Why don't you climb in with 
him, Prim?" 



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"I know it's silly... but I'm afraid the bunk might 
collapse on us during the attack," she says. 



If the bunks collapse, the whole bunker will have 
given way and buried us, but I decide this kind of 
logic won't actually be helpful. Instead, I clean out the 
storage cube and make Buttercup a bed inside. Then 
I pull a mattress in front of it for my sister and me to 
share. 

We're given clearance in small groups to use the 
bathroom and brush our teeth, although showering 
has been canceled for the day. I curl up with Prim on 
the mattress, double layering the blankets because 
the cavern emits a dank chill. Buttercup, miserable 
even with Prim's constant attention, huddles in the 
cube and exhales cat breath in my face. 

Despite the disagreeable conditions, I'm glad to have 
time with my sister. My extreme preoccupation since I 
came here— no, since the first Games, really— has left 
little attention for her. I haven't been watching over 
her the way I should, the way I used to. After all, it 
was Gale who checked our compartment, not me. 
Something to make up for. 

I realize I've never even bothered to ask her about 
how she's handling the shock of coming here. "So, 
how are you liking Thirteen, Prim?" I offer. 

"Right now?" she asks. We both laugh. "I miss home 
badly sometimes. But then I remember there's 
nothing left to miss anymore. I feel safer here. We 
don't have to worry about you. Well, not the same 
way." She pauses, and then a shy smile crosses her 
lips. "I think they're going to train me to be a doctor." 

It's the first I've heard of it. "Well, of course, they are. 
They'd be stupid not to." 



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"They've been watching me when I help out in the 
hospital. I'm already taking the medic courses. It's 
just beginner's stuff. I know a lot of it from home. 
Still, there's plenty to learn," she tells me. 

"That's great," I say. Prim a doctor. She couldn't even 
dream of it in 12. Something small and quiet, like a 
match being struck, lights up the gloom inside me. 
This is the sort of future a rebellion could bring. 

"What about you, Katniss? How are you managing?" 
Her fingertip moves in short, gentle strokes between 
Buttercup's eyes. "And don't say you're fine." 

It's true. Whatever the opposite of fine is, that's what I 
am. So I go ahead and tell her about Peeta, his 
deterioration on-screen, and how I think they must be 
killing him at this very moment. Buttercup has to rely 
on himself for a while, because now Prim turns her 
attention to me. Pulling me closer, brushing the hair 
back behind my ears with her fingers. I've stopped 
talking because there's really nothing left to say and 
there's this piercing sort of pain where my heart is. 
Maybe I'm even having a heart attack, but it doesn't 
seem worth mentioning. 

"Katniss, I don't think President Snow will kill Peeta," 
she says. Of course, she says this; it's what she 
thinks will calm me. But her next words come as a 
surprise. "If he does, he won't have anyone left you 
want. He won't have any way to hurt you." 

Suddenly, I am reminded of another girl, one who had 
seen all the evil the Capitol had to offer. Johanna 
Mason, the tribute from District 7, in the last arena. I 
was trying to prevent her from going into the jungle 
where the jabberjays mimicked the voices of loved 
ones being tortured, but she brushed me off, saying, 



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"They can't hurt me. I'm not like the rest of you. 
There's no one left I love." 

Then I know Prim is right, that Snow cannot afford to 
waste Peeta's life, especially now, while the 
Mockingjay causes so much havoc. He's killed Cinna 
already. Destroyed my home. My family, Gale, and 
even Haymitch are out of his reach. Peeta's all he has 
left. 

"So, what do you think they'll do to him?" I ask. 

Prim sounds about a thousand years old when she 
speaks. 

"Whatever it takes to break you." 



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What will break me? 

This is the question that consumes me over the next 
three days as we wait to be released from our prison 
of safety. What will break me into a million pieces so 
that I am beyond repair, beyond usefulness? I 
mention it to no one, but it devours my waking hours 
and weaves itself throughout my nightmares. 

Four more bunker missiles fall over this period, all 
massive, all very damaging, but there's no urgency to 
the attack. The bombs are spread out over the long 
hours so that just when you think the raid is over, 
another blast sends shock waves through your guts. 
It feels more designed to keep us in lockdown than to 
decimate 13. Cripple the district, yes. Give the people 
plenty to do to get the place running again. But 
destroy it? No. Coin was right on that point. You don't 
destroy what you want to acquire in the future. I 
assume what they really want, in the short term, is to 
stop the Airtime Assaults and keep me off the 
televisions of Panem. 

We receive next to no information about what is 
happening. Our screens never come on, and we get 
only brief audio updates from Coin about the nature 
of the bombs. Certainly, the war is still being waged, 
but as to its status, we're in the dark. 

Inside the bunker, cooperation is the order of the day. 
We adhere to a strict schedule for meals and bathing, 
exercise and sleep. Small periods of socialization are 
granted to alleviate the tedium. Our space becomes 
very popular because both children and adults have a 



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fascination with Buttercup. He attains celebrity 
status with his evening game of Crazy Cat. I created 
this by accident a few years ago, during a winter 
blackout. You simply wiggle a flashlight beam around 
on the floor, and Buttercup tries to catch it. I'm petty 
enough to enjoy it because I think it makes him look 
stupid. Inexplicably, everyone here thinks he's clever 
and delightful. I'm even issued a special set of 
batteries— an enormous waste— to be used for this 
purpose. The citizens of 13 are truly starved for 
entertainment. 

It's on the third night, during our game, that I answer 
the question eating away at me. Crazy Cat becomes a 
metaphor for my situation. I am Buttercup. Peeta, the 
thing I want so badly to secure, is the light. As long as 
Buttercup feels he has the chance of catching the 
elusive light under his paws, he's bristling with 
aggression. (That's how I've been since I left the 
arena, with Peeta alive.) When the light goes out 
completely, Buttercup's temporarily distraught and 
confused, but he recovers and moves on to other 
things. (That's what would happen if Peeta died.) But 
the one thing that sends Buttercup into a tailspin is 
when I leave the light on but put it hopelessly out of 
his reach, high on the wall, beyond even his jumping 
skills. He paces below the wall, wails, and can't be 
comforted or distracted. He's useless until I shut the 
light off. (That's what Snow is trying to do to me now, 
only I don't know what form his game takes.) 

Maybe this realization on my part is all Snow needs. 
Thinking that Peeta was in his possession and being 
tortured for rebel information was bad. But thinking 
that he's being tortured specifically to incapacitate me 
is unendurable. And it's under the weight of this 
revelation that I truly begin to break. 



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After Crazy Cat, we're directed to bed. The power's 
been coming and going; sometimes the lamps burn at 
full brightness, other times we squint at one another 
in the brownouts. At bedtime they turn the lamps to 
near darkness and activate safety lights in each 
space. Prim, who's decided the walls will hold up, 
snuggles with Buttercup on the lower bunk. My 
mother's on the upper. I offer to take a bunk, but they 
make me keep to the floor mattress since I flail 
around so much when I'm sleeping. 

I'm not flailing now, as my muscles are rigid with the 
tension of holding myself together. The pain over my 
heart returns, and from it I imagine tiny fissures 
spreading out into my body. Through my torso, down 
my arms and legs, over my face, leaving it 
crisscrossed with cracks. One good jolt of a bunker 
missile and I could shatter into strange, razor-sharp 
shards. 

When the restless, wiggling majority has settled into 
sleep, I carefully extricate myself from my blanket and 
tiptoe through the cavern until I find Finnick, feeling 
for some unspecified reason that he will understand. 
He sits under the safety light in his space, knotting 
his rope, not even pretending to rest. As I whisper my 
discovery of Snow's plan to break me, it dawns on me. 
This strategy is very old news to Finnick. It's what 
broke him. 

"This is what they're doing to you with Annie, isn't it?" 
I ask. 

"Well, they didn't arrest her because they thought 
she'd be a wealth of rebel information," he says. "They 
know I'd never have risked telling her anything like 
that. For her own protection." 

"Oh, Finnick. I'm so sorry," I say. 

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"No, I'm sorry. That I didn't warn you somehow," he 
tells me. 

Suddenly, a memory surfaces. I'm strapped to my 
bed, mad with rage and grief after the rescue. Finnick 
is trying to console me about Peeta. "They'll figure out 
he doesn't know anything pretty fast. And they won't 
kill him if they think they can use him against you." 

"You did warn me, though. On the hovercraft. Only 
when you said they'd use Peeta against me, I thought 
you meant like bait. To lure me into the Capitol 
somehow," I say. 

"I shouldn't have said even that. It was too late for it 
to be of any help to you. Since I hadn't warned you 
before the Quarter Quell, I should've shut up about 
how Snow operates." Finnick yanks on the end of his 
rope, and an intricate knot becomes a straight line 
again. "It's just that I didn't understand when I met 
you. After your first Games, I thought the whole 
romance was an act on your part. We all expected 
you'd continue that strategy. But it wasn't until Peeta 
hit the force field and nearly died that I—" Finnick 
hesitates. 

I think back to the arena. How I sobbed when Finnick 
revived Peeta. The quizzical look on Finnick' s face. 
The way he excused my behavior, blaming it on my 
pretend pregnancy. "That you what?" 

"That I knew I'd misjudged you. That you do love him. 
I'm not saying in what way. Maybe you don't know 
yourself. But anyone paying attention could see how 
much you care about him," he says gently. 

Anyone? On Snow's visit before the Victory Tour, he 
challenged me to erase any doubts of my love for 
Peeta. "Convince me," Snow said. It seems, under that 



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hot pink sky with Peeta's life in limbo, I finally did. 
And in doing so, I gave him the weapon he needed to 
break me. 



Finnick and I sit for a long time in silence, watching 
the knots bloom and vanish, before I can ask, "How 
do you bear it?" 

Finnick looks at me in disbelief. "I don't, Katniss! 
Obviously, I don't. I drag myself out of nightmares 
each morning and find there's no relief in waking." 
Something in my expression stops him. "Better not to 
give in to it. It takes ten times as long to put yourself 
back together as it does to fall apart." 

Well, he must know. I take a deep breath, forcing 
myself back into one piece. 

"The more you can distract yourself, the better," he 
says. "First thing tomorrow, we'll get you your own 
rope. Until then, take mine." 

I spend the rest of the night on my mattress 
obsessively making knots, holding them up for 
Buttercup's inspection. If one looks suspicious, he 
swipes it out of the air and bites it a few times to 
make sure it's dead. By morning, my fingers are sore, 
but I'm still holding on. 

With twenty-four hours of quiet behind us, Coin 
finally announces we can leave the bunker. Our old 
quarters have been destroyed by the bombings. 
Everyone must follow exact directions to their new 
compartments. We clean our spaces, as directed, and 
file obediently toward the door. 

Before I'm halfway there, Boggs appears and pulls me 
from the line. He signals for Gale and Finnick to join 
us. People move aside to let us by. Some even smile at 



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me since the Crazy Cat game seems to have made me 
more lovable. Out the door, up the stairs, down the 
hall to one of those multidirectional elevators, and 
finally we arrive at Special Defense. Nothing along our 
route has been damaged, but we are still very deep. 

Boggs ushers us into a room virtually identical to 
Command. Coin, Plutarch, Haymitch, Cressida, and 
everybody else around the table looks exhausted. 
Someone has finally broken out the coffee— although 
I'm sure it's viewed only as an emergency stimulant— 
and Plutarch has both hands wrapped tightly around 
his cup as if at any moment it might be taken away. 

There's no small talk. "We need all four of you suited 
up and aboveground," says the president. "You have 
two hours to get footage showing the damage from the 
bombing, establish that Thirteen' s military unit 
remains not only functional but dominant, and, most 
important, that the Mockingjay is still alive. Any 
questions?" 

"Can we have a coffee?" asks Finnick. 

Steaming cups are handed out. I stare distastefully at 
the shiny black liquid, never having been much of a 
fan of the stuff, but thinking it might help me stay on 
my feet. Finnick sloshes some cream in my cup and 
reaches into the sugar bowl. "Want a sugar cube?" he 
asks in his old seductive voice. That's how we met, 
with Finnick offering me sugar. Surrounded by horses 
and chariots, costumed and painted for the crowds, 
before we were allies. Before I had any idea what 
made him tick. The memory actually coaxes a smile 
out of me. "Here, it improves the taste," he says in his 
real voice, plunking three cubes in my cup. 

As I turn to go suit up as the Mockingjay, I catch Gale 
watching me and Finnick unhappily. What now? Does 
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he actually think something's going on between us? 
Maybe he saw me go to Finnick's last night. I would've 
passed the Hawthornes' space to get there. I guess 
that probably rubbed him the wrong way. Me seeking 
out Finnick's company instead of his. Well, fine. I've 
got rope burn on my fingers, I can barely hold my 
eyes open, and a camera crew's waiting for me to do 
something brilliant. And Snow's got Peeta. Gale can 
think whatever he wants. 

In my new Remake Room in Special Defense, my prep 
team slaps me into my Mockingjay suit, arranges my 
hair, and applies minimal makeup before my coffee's 
even cooled. In ten minutes, the cast and crew of the 
next propos are making the circuitous trek to the 
outside. I slurp my coffee as we travel, finding that 
the cream and sugar greatly enhance its flavor. As I 
knock back the dregs that have settled to the bottom 
of the cup, I feel a slight buzz start to run through my 
veins. 

After climbing a final ladder, Boggs hits a lever that 
opens a trapdoor. Fresh air rushes in. I take big gulps 
and for the first time allow myself to feel how much I 
hated the bunker. We emerge into the woods, and my 
hands run through the leaves overhead. Some are 
just starting to turn. "What day is it?" I ask no one in 
particular. Boggs tells me September begins next 
week. 

September. That means Snow has had Peeta in his 
clutches for five, maybe six weeks. I examine a leaf on 
my palm and see I'm shaking. I can't will myself to 
stop. I blame the coffee and try to focus on slowing 
my breathing, which is far too rapid for my pace. 

Debris begins to litter the forest floor. We come to our 
first crater, thirty yards wide and I can't tell how 
deep. Very. Boggs says anyone on the first ten levels 
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would likely have been killed. We skirt the pit and 
continue on. 



"Can you rebuild it?" Gale asks. 

"Not anytime soon. That one didn't get much. A few 
backup generators and a poultry farm," says Boggs. 
"We'll just seal it off." 

The trees disappear as we enter the area inside the 
fence. The craters are ringed with a mixture of old 
and new rubble. Before the bombing, very little of the 
current 13 was aboveground. A few guard stations. 
The training area. About a foot of the top floor of our 
building- -where Buttercup's window jutted out— with 
several feet of steel on top of it. Even that was never 
meant to withstand more than a superficial attack. 

"How much of an edge did the boy's warning give 
you?" asks Haymitch. 

"About ten minutes before our own systems would've 
detected the missiles," says Boggs. 

"But it did help, right?" I ask. I can't bear it if he says 
no. 

"Absolutely," Boggs replies. "Civilian evacuation was 
completed. Seconds count when you're under attack. 
Ten minutes meant lives saved." 

Prim, I think. And Gale. They were in the bunker only 
a couple of minutes before the first missile hit. Peeta 
might have saved them. Add their names to the list of 
things I can never stop owing him for. 

Cressida has the idea to film me in front of the ruins 
of the old Justice Building, which is something of a 
joke since the Capitol's been using it as a backdrop 



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for fake news broadcasts for years, to show that the 
district no longer existed. Now, with the recent attack, 
the Justice Building sits about ten yards away from 
the edge of a new crater. 

As we approach what used to be the grand entrance, 
Gale points out something and the whole party slows 
down. I don't know what the problem is at first and 
then I see the ground strewn with fresh pink and red 
roses. "Don't touch them!" I yell. "They're for me!" 

The sickeningly sweet smell hits my nose, and my 
heart begins to hammer against my chest. So I didn't 
imagine it. The rose on my dresser. Before me lies 
Snow's second delivery. Long- stemmed pink and red 
beauties, the very flowers that decorated the set 
where Peeta and I performed our post-victory 
interview. Flowers not meant for one, but for a pair of 
lovers. 

I explain to the others as best I can. Upon inspection, 
they appear to be harmless, if genetically enhanced, 
flowers. Two dozen roses. Slightly wilted. Most likely 
dropped after the last bombing. A crew in special 
suits collects them and carts them away. I feel certain 
they will find nothing extraordinary in them, though. 
Snow knows exactly what he's doing to me. It's like 
having Cinna beaten to a pulp while I watch from my 
tribute tube. Designed to unhinge me. 

Like then, I try to rally and fight back. But as 
Cressida gets Castor and Pollux in place, I feel my 
anxiety building. I'm so tired, so wired, and so unable 
to keep my mind on anything but Peeta since I've 
seen the roses. The coffee was a huge mistake. What I 
didn't need was a stimulant. My body visibly shakes 
and I can't seem to catch my breath. After days in the 
bunker, I'm squinting no matter what direction I turn, 



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and the light hurts. Even in the cool breeze, sweat 
trickles down my face. 

"So, what exactly do you need from me again?" I ask. 

"Just a few quick lines that show you're alive and still 
fighting," says Cressida. 

"Okay." I take my position and then I'm staring into 
the red light. Staring. Staring. "I'm sorry, I've got 
nothing." 

Cressida walks up to me. "You feeling okay?" I nod. 
She pulls a small cloth from her pocket and blots my 
face. "How about we do the old Q-and-A thing?" 

"Yeah. That would help, I think." I cross my arms to 
hide the shaking. Glance at Finnick, who gives me a 
thumbs-up. But he's looking pretty shaky himself. 

Cressida's back in position now. "So, Katniss. You've 
survived the Capitol bombing of Thirteen. How did it 
compare with what you experienced on the ground in 
Eight?" 

"We were so far underground this time, there was no 
real danger. Thirteen's alive and well and so am—" My 
voice cuts off in a dry, squeaking sound. 

"Try the line again," says Cressida. '"Thirteen's alive 
and well and so am I.'" 

I take a breath, trying to force air down into my 
diaphragm. "Thirteen's alive and so—" No, that's 
wrong. 

I swear I can still smell those roses. 



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"Katniss, just this one line and you're done today. I 
promise," says Cressida. "Thirteen's alive and well 
and so am I.'" 

I swing my arms to loosen myself up. Place my fists 
on my hips. Then drop them to my sides. Saliva's 
filling my mouth at a ridiculous rate and I feel vomit 
at the back of my throat. I swallow hard and open my 
lips so I can get the stupid line out and go hide in the 
woods and— that's when I start crying. 

It's impossible to be the Mockingjay. Impossible to 
complete even this one sentence. Because now I know 
that everything I say will be directly taken out on 
Peeta. Result in his torture. But not his death, no, 
nothing so merciful as that. Snow will ensure that his 
life is much worse than death. 

"Cut," I hear Cressida say quietly. 

"What's wrong with her?" Plutarch says under his 
breath. 

"She's figured out how Snow's using Peeta," says 
Finnick. 

There's something like a collective sigh of regret from 
the semicircle of people spread out before me. 
Because I know this now. Because there will never be 
a way for me to not know this again. Because, beyond 
the military disadvantage losing a Mockingjay entails, 
I am broken. 

Several sets of arms would embrace me. But in the 
end, the only person I truly want to comfort me is 
Haymitch, because he loves Peeta, too. I reach out for 
him and say something like his name and he's there, 
holding me and patting my back. "It's okay. It'll be 
okay, sweetheart." He sits me on a length of broken 



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marble pillar and keeps an arm around me while I 
sob. 

"I can't do this anymore," I say. 
"I know," he says. 

"All I can think of is— what he's going to do to Peeta— 
because I'm the Mockingjay!" I get out. 

"I know." Haymitch's arm tightens around me. 

"Did you see? How weird he acted? What are they— 
doing to him?" I'm gasping for air between sobs, but I 
manage one last phrase. "It's my fault!" And then I 
cross some line into hysteria and there's a needle in 
my arm and the world slips away. 

It must be strong, whatever they shot into me, 
because it's a full day before I come to. My sleep 
wasn't peaceful, though. I have the sense of emerging 
from a world of dark, haunted places where I traveled 
alone. Haymitch sits in the chair by my bed, his skin 
waxen, his eyes bloodshot. I remember about Peeta 
and start to tremble again. 

Haymitch reaches out and squeezes my shoulder. "It's 
all right. We're going to try to get Peeta out." 

"What?" That makes no sense. 

"Plutarch's sending in a rescue team. He has people 
on the inside. He thinks we can get Peeta back alive," 
he says. 

"Why didn't we before?" I say. 

"Because it's costly. But everyone agrees this is the 
thing to do. It's the same choice we made in the 



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arena. To do whatever it takes to keep you going. We 
can't lose the Mockingjay now. And you can't perform 
unless you know Snow can't take it out on Peeta." 
Haymitch offers me a cup. "Here, drink something." 

I slowly sit up and take a sip of water. "What do you 
mean, costly?" 

He shrugs. "Covers will be blown. People may die. But 
keep in mind that they're dying every day. And it's not 
just Peeta; we're getting Annie out for Finnick, too." 

"Where is he?" I ask. 

"Behind that screen, sleeping his sedative off. He lost 
it right after we knocked you out," says Haymitch. I 
smile a little, feel a bit less weak. "Yeah, it was a 
really excellent shoot. You two cracked up and Boggs 
left to arrange the mission to get Peeta. We're officially 
in reruns." 

"Well, if Boggs is leading it, that's a plus," I say. 

"Oh, he's on top of it. It was volunteer only, but he 
pretended not to notice me waving my hand in the 
air," says Haymitch. "See? He's already demonstrated 
good judgment. " 

Something's wrong. Haymitch' s trying a little too hard 
to cheer me up. It's not really his style. "So who else 
volunteered?" 

"I think there were seven altogether," he says 
evasively. 

I get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. "Who 
else, Haymitch?" I insist. 



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Haymitch finally drops the good-natured act. "You 
know who else, Katniss. You know who stepped up 
first." 

Of course I do. 
Gale. 



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Today I might lose both of them. 

I try to imagine a world where both Gale's and Peeta's 
voices have ceased. Hands stilled. Eyes unblinking. 
I'm standing over their bodies, having a last look, 
leaving the room where they lie. But when I open the 
door to step out into the world, there's only a 
tremendous void. A pale gray nothingness that is all 
my future holds. 

"Do you want me to have them sedate you until it's 
over?" asks Haymitch. He's not joking. This is a man 
who spent his adult life at the bottom of a bottle, 
trying to anesthetize himself against the Capitol's 
crimes. The sixteen-year-old boy who won the second 
Quarter Quell must have had people he loved— family, 
friends, a sweetheart maybe— that he fought to get 
back to. Where are they now? How is it that until 
Peeta and I were thrust upon him, there was no one 
at all in his life? What did Snow do to them? 

"No," I say. "I want to go to the Capitol. I want to be 
part of the rescue mission." 

"They're gone," says Haymitch. 

"How long ago did they leave? I could catch up. I 
could-" What? What could I do? 

Haymitch shakes his head. "It'll never happen. You're 
too valuable and too vulnerable. There was talk of 
sending you to another district to divert the Capitol's 
attention while the rescue takes place. But no one felt 
you could handle it." 



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"Please, Haymitch!" I'm begging now. "I have to do 
something. I can't just sit here waiting to hear if they 
died. There must be something I can do!" 



"All right. Let me talk to Plutarch. You stay put." But I 
can't. Haymitch's footsteps are still echoing in the 
outer hall when I fumble my way through the slit in 
the dividing curtain to find Finnick sprawled out on 
his stomach, his hands twisted in his pillowcase. 
Although it's cowardly— cruel even— to rouse him from 
the shadowy, muted drug land to stark reality, I go 
ahead and do it because I can't stand to face this by 
myself. 

As I explain our situation, his initial agitation 
mysteriously ebbs. "Don't you see, Katniss, this will 
decide things. One way or the other. By the end of the 
day, they'll either be dead or with us. It's... it's more 
than we could hope for!" 

Well, that's a sunny view of our situation. And yet 
there's something calming about the idea that this 
torment could come to an end. 

The curtain yanks back and there's Haymitch. He has 
a job for us, if we can pull it together. They still need 
post-bombing footage of 13. "If we can get it in the 
next few hours, Beetee can air it leading up to the 
rescue, and maybe keep the Capitol's attention 
elsewhere." 

"Yes, a distraction," says Finnick. "A decoy of sorts." 

"What we really need is something so riveting that 
even President Snow won't be able to tear himself 
away. Got anything like that?" asks Haymitch. 

Having a job that might help the mission snaps me 
into focus. While I knock down breakfast and get 



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prepped, I try to think of what I might say. President 
Snow must be wondering how that blood-splattered 
floor and his roses are affecting me. If he wants me 
broken, then I will have to be whole. But I don't think 
I will convince him of anything by shouting a couple 
of defiant lines at the camera. Besides, that won't buy 
the rescue team any time. Outbursts are short. It's 
stories that take time. 

I don't know if it will work, but when the television 
crew's all assembled aboveground, I ask Cressida if 
she could start out by asking me about Peeta. I take a 
seat on the fallen marble pillar where I had my 
breakdown, wait for the red light and Cressida' s 
question. 

"How did you meet Peeta?" she asks. 

And then I do the thing that Haymitch has wanted 
since my first interview. I open up. "When I met Peeta, 
I was eleven years old, and I was almost dead." I talk 
about that awful day when I tried to sell the baby 
clothes in the rain, how Peeta' s mother chased me 
from the bakery door, and how he took a beating to 
bring me the loaves of bread that saved our lives. "We 
had never even spoken. The first time I ever talked to 
Peeta was on the train to the Games." 

"But he was already in love with you," says Cressida. 

"I guess so." I allow myself a small smile. 

"How are you doing with the separation?" she asks. 

"Not well. I know at any moment Snow could kill him. 
Especially since he warned Thirteen about the 
bombing. It's a terrible thing to live with," I say. "But 
because of what they're putting him through, I don't 
have any reservations anymore. About doing whatever 
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it takes to destroy the Capitol. I'm finally free." I turn 
my gaze skyward and watch the flight of a hawk 
across the sky. "President Snow once admitted to me 
that the Capitol was fragile. At the time, I didn't know 
what he meant. It was hard to see clearly because I 
was so afraid. Now I'm not. The Capitol's fragile 
because it depends on the districts for everything. 
Food, energy, even the Peacekeepers that police us. If 
we declare our freedom, the Capitol collapses. 
President Snow, thanks to you, I'm officially declaring 
mine today." 

I've been sufficient, if not dazzling. Everyone loves the 
bread story. But it's my message to President Snow 
that gets the wheels spinning in Plutarch's brain. He 
hastily calls Finnick and Haymitch over and they 
have a brief but intense conversation that I can see 
Haymitch isn't happy with. Plutarch seems to win— 
Finnick' s pale but nodding his head by the end of it. 

As Finnick moves to take my seat before the camera, 
Haymitch tells him, "You don't have to do this." 

"Yes, I do. If it will help her." Finnick balls up his rope 
in his hand. "I'm ready." 

I don't know what to expect. A love story about 
Annie? An account of the abuses in District 4? But 
Finnick Odair takes a completely different tack. 

"President Snow used to... sell me... my body, that is," 
Finnick begins in a flat, removed tone. "I wasn't the 
only one. If a victor is considered desirable, the 
president gives them as a reward or allows people to 
buy them for an exorbitant amount of money. If you 
refuse, he kills someone you love. So you do it." 

That explains it, then. Finnick's parade of lovers in 
the Capitol. They were never real lovers. Just people 
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like our old Head Peacekeeper, Cray, who bought 
desperate girls to devour and discard because he 
could. I want to interrupt the taping and beg 
Finnick's forgiveness for every false thought I've ever 
had about him. But we have a job to do, and I sense 
Finnick's role will be far more effective than mine. 

"I wasn't the only one, but I was the most popular," 
he says. "And perhaps the most defenseless, because 
the people I loved were so defenseless. To make 
themselves feel better, my patrons would make 
presents of money or jewelry, but I found a much 
more valuable form of payment." 

Secrets, I think. That's what Finnick told me his 
lovers paid him in, only I thought the whole 
arrangement was by his choice. 

"Secrets," he says, echoing my thoughts. "And this is 
where you're going to want to stay tuned, President 
Snow, because so very many of them were about you. 
But let's begin with some of the others." 

Finnick begins to weave a tapestry so rich in detail 
that you can't doubt its authenticity. Tales of strange 
sexual appetites, betrayals of the heart, bottomless 
greed, and bloody power plays. Drunken secrets 
whispered over damp pillow-cases in the dead of 
night. Finnick was someone bought and sold. A 
district slave. A handsome one, certainly, but in 
reality, harmless. Who would he tell? And who would 
believe him if he did? But some secrets are too 
delicious not to share. I don't know the people 
Finnick names— all seem to be prominent Capitol 
citizens— but I know, from listening to the chatter of 
my prep team, the attention the most mild slip in 
judgment can draw. If a bad haircut can lead to hours 
of gossip, what will charges of incest, back- stabbing, 
blackmail, and arson produce? Even as the waves of 
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shock and recrimination roll over the Capitol, the 
people there will be waiting, as I am now, to hear 
about the president. 



"And now, on to our good President Coriolanus 
Snow," says Finnick. "Such a young man when he 
rose to power. Such a clever one to keep it. How, you 
must ask yourself, did he do it? One word. That's all 
you really need to know. Poison." Finnick goes back 
to Snow's political ascension, which I know nothing 
of, and works his way up to the present, pointing out 
case after case of the mysterious deaths of Snow's 
adversaries or, even worse, his allies who had the 
potential to become threats. People dropping dead at 
a feast or slowly, inexplicably declining into shadows 
over a period of months. Blamed on bad shellfish, 
elusive viruses, or an overlooked weakness in the 
aorta. Snow drinking from the poisoned cup himself 
to deflect suspicion. But antidotes don't always work. 
They say that's why he wears the roses that reek of 
perfume. They say it's to cover the scent of blood from 
the mouth sores that will never heal. They say, they 
say, they say... Snow has a list and no one knows who 
will be next. 

Poison. The perfect weapon for a snake. 

Since my opinion of the Capitol and its noble 
president are already so low, I can't say Finnick's 
allegations shock me. They seem to have far more 
effect on the displaced Capitol rebels like my crew 
and Fulvia— even Plutarch occasionally reacts in 
surprise, maybe wondering how a specific tidbit 
passed him by. When Finnick finishes, they just keep 
the cameras rolling until finally he has to be the one 
to say "Cut." 

The crew hurries inside to edit the material, and 
Plutarch leads Finnick off for a chat, probably to see 



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if he has any more stories. I'm left with Haymitch in 
the rubble, wondering if Finnick's fate would have one 
day been mine. Why not? Snow could have gotten a 
really good price for the girl on fire. 

"Is that what happened to you?" I ask Haymitch. 

"No. My mother and younger brother. My girl. They 
were all dead two weeks after I was crowned victor. 
Because of that stunt I pulled with the force field," he 
answers. "Snow had no one to use against me." 

"I'm surprised he didn't just kill you," I say. 

"Oh, no. I was the example. The person to hold up to 
the young Finnicks and Johannas and Cashmeres. Of 
what could happen to a victor who caused problems," 
says Haymitch. "But he knew he had no leverage 
against me." 

"Until Peeta and I came along," I say softly. I don't 
even get a shrug in return. 

With our job done, there's nothing left for Finnick and 
me to do but wait. We try to fill the dragging minutes 
in Special Defense. Tie knots. Push our lunch around 
our bowls. Blow things up on the shooting range. 
Because of the danger of detection, no 
communication comes from the rescue team. At 
15:00, the designated hour, we stand tense and silent 
in the back of a room full of screens and computers 
and watch Beetee and his team try to dominate the 
airwaves. His usual fidgety distraction is replaced 
with a determination I have never seen. Most of my 
interview doesn't make the cut, just enough to show I 
am alive and still defiant. It is Finnick's salacious and 
gory account of the Capitol that takes the day. Is 
Beetee's skill improving? Or are his counterparts in 
the Capitol a little too fascinated to want to tune 
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Finnick out? For the next sixty minutes, the Capitol 
feed alternates between the standard afternoon 
newscast, Finnick, and attempts to black it all out. 
But the rebel techno team manages to override even 
the latter and, in a real coup, keeps control for almost 
the entire attack on Snow. 

"Let it go!" says Beetee, throwing up his hands, 
relinquishing the broadcast back to the Capitol. He 
mops his face with a cloth. "If they're not out of there 
by now, they're all dead." He spins in his chair to see 
Finnick and me reacting to his words. "It was a good 
plan, though. Did Plutarch show it to you?" 

Of course not. Beetee takes us to another room and 
shows us how the team, with the help of rebel 
insiders, will attempt— has attempted— to free the 
victors from an underground prison. It seems to have 
involved knockout gas distributed by the ventilation 
system, a power failure, the detonation of a bomb in a 
government building several miles from the prison, 
and now the disruption of the broadcast. Beetee's 
glad we find the plan hard to follow, because then our 
enemies will, too. 

"Like your electricity trap in the arena?" I ask. 

"Exactly. And see how well that worked out?" says 
Beetee. 

Well... not really, I think. 

Finnick and I try to station ourselves in Command, 
where surely first word of the rescue will come, but 
we are barred because serious war business is being 
carried out. We refuse to leave Special Defense and 
end up waiting in the hummingbird room for news. 



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Making knots. Making knots. No word. Making knots. 
Tick-tock. This is a clock. Do not think of Gale. Do 
not think of Peeta. Making knots. We do not want 
dinner. Fingers raw and bleeding. Finnick finally gives 
up and assumes the hunched position he took in the 
arena when the jabberjays attacked. I perfect my 
miniature noose. The words of "The Hanging Tree" 
replay in my head. Gale and Peeta. Peeta and Gale. 

"Did you love Annie right away, Finnick?" I ask. 

"No." A long time passes before he adds, "She crept up 
on me." 

I search my heart, but at the moment the only person 
I can feel creeping up on me is Snow. 

It must be midnight, it must be tomorrow when 
Haymitch pushes open the door. "They're back. We're 
wanted in the hospital." My mouth opens with a flood 
of questions that he cuts off with "That's all I know." 

I want to run, but Finnick's acting so strange, as if 
he's lost the ability to move, so I take his hand and 
lead him like a small child. Through Special Defense, 
into the elevator that goes this way and that, and on 
to the hospital wing. The place is in an uproar, with 
doctors shouting orders and the wounded being 
wheeled through the halls in their beds. 

We're sideswiped by a gurney bearing an 
unconscious, emaciated young woman with a shaved 
head. Her flesh shows bruises and oozing scabs. 
Johanna Mason. Who actually knew rebel secrets. At 
least the one about me. And this is how she has paid 
for it. 

Through a doorway, I catch a glimpse of Gale, 
stripped to the waist, perspiration streaming down his 



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face as a doctor removes something from under his 
shoulder blade with a long pair of tweezers. Wounded, 
but alive. I call his name, start toward him until a 
nurse pushes me back and shuts me out. 

"Finnick!" Something between a shriek and a cry of 
joy. A lovely if somewhat bedraggled young woman- 
dark tangled hair, sea green eyes— runs toward us in 
nothing but a sheet. "Finnick!" And suddenly, it's as if 
there's no one in the world but these two, crashing 
through space to reach each other. They collide, 
enfold, lose their balance, and slam against a wall, 
where they stay. Clinging into one being. Indivisible. 

A pang of jealousy hits me. Not for either Finnick or 
Annie but for their certainty. No one seeing them 
could doubt their love. 

Boggs, looking a little worse for wear but uninjured, 
finds Haymitch and me. "We got them all out. Except 
Enobaria. But since she's from Two, we doubt she's 
being held anyway. Peeta's at the end of the hall. The 
effects of the gas are just wearing off. You should be 
there when he wakes." 

Peeta. 

Alive and well— maybe not well but alive and here. 
Away from Snow. Safe. Here. With me. In a minute I 
can touch him. See his smile. Hear his laugh. 

Haymitch' s grinning at me. "Come on, then," he says. 

I'm light-headed with giddiness. What will I say? Oh, 
who cares what I say? Peeta will be ecstatic no matter 
what I do. He'll probably be kissing me anyway. I 
wonder if it will feel like those last kisses on the 
beach in the arena, the ones I haven't dared let myself 
consider until this moment. 



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Peeta's awake already, sitting on the side of the bed, 
looking bewildered as a trio of doctors reassure him, 
flash lights in his eyes, check his pulse. I'm 
disappointed that mine was not the first face he saw 
when he woke, but he sees it now. His features 
register disbelief and something more intense that I 
can't quite place. Desire? Desperation? Surely both, 
for he sweeps the doctors aside, leaps to his feet, and 
moves toward me. I run to meet him, my arms 
extended to embrace him. His hands are reaching for 
me, too, to caress my face, I think. 

My lips are just forming his name when his fingers 
lock around my throat. 



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The cold collar chafes my neck and makes the 
shivering even harder to control. At least I am no 
longer in the claustrophobic tube, while the machines 
click and whir around me, listening to a disembodied 
voice telling me to hold still while I try to convince 
myself I can still breathe. Even now, when I've been 
assured there will be no permanent damage, I hunger 
for air. 

The medical team's main concerns— damage to my 
spinal cord, airway, veins, and arteries— have been 
allayed. Bruising, hoarseness, the sore larynx, this 
strange little cough— not to be worried about. It will all 
be fine. The Mockingjay will not lose her voice. Where, 
I want to ask, is the doctor who determines if I am 
losing my mind? Only I'm not supposed to talk right 
now. I can't even thank Boggs when he comes to 
check on me. To look me over and tell me he's seen a 
lot worse injuries among the soldiers when they teach 
choke holds in training. 

It was Boggs who knocked out Peeta with one blow 
before any permanent damage could be done. I know 
Haymitch would have come to my defense if he hadn't 
been utterly unprepared. To catch both Haymitch and 
myself off guard is a rare thing. But we have been so 
consumed with saving Peeta, so tortured by having 
him in the Capitol's hands, that the elation at having 
him back blinded us. If I'd had a private reunion with 
Peeta, he would have killed me. Now that he's 
deranged. 

No, not deranged, I remind myself. Hijacked. That's 
the word I heard pass between Plutarch and 



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Haymitch as I was wheeled past them in the hallway. 
Hijacked. I don't know what it means. 

Prim, who appeared moments after the attack and 
has stayed as close to me as possible ever since, 
spreads another blanket over me. "I think they'll take 
the collar off soon, Katniss. You won't be so cold 
then." My mother, who's been assisting in a 
complicated surgery, has still not been informed of 
Peeta's assault. Prim takes one of my hands, which is 
clutched in a fist, and massages it until it opens and 
blood begins to flow through my fingers again. She's 
starting on the second fist when the doctors show up, 
remove the collar, and give me a shot of something for 
pain and swelling. I lie, as instructed, with my head 
still, not aggravating the injuries to my neck. 

Plutarch, Haymitch, and Beetee have been waiting in 
the hall for the doctors to give them clearance to see 
me. I don't know if they've told Gale, but since he's 
not here, I assume they haven't. Plutarch ushers the 
doctors out and tries to order Prim to go as well, but 
she says, "No. If you force me to leave, I'll go directly 
to surgery and tell my mother everything that's 
happened. And I warn you, she doesn't think much of 
a Gamemaker calling the shots on Katniss's life. 
Especially when you've taken such poor care of her." 

Plutarch looks offended, but Haymitch chuckles. "I'd 
let it go, Plutarch," he says. Prim stays. 

"So, Katniss, Peeta's condition has come as a shock to 
all of us," says Plutarch. "We couldn't help but notice 
his deterioration in the last two interviews. Obviously, 
he'd been abused, and we put his psychological state 
down to that. Now we believe something more was 
going on. That the Capitol has been subjecting him to 
a rather uncommon technique known as hijacking. 
Beetee?" 



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"I'm sorry," Beetee says, "but I can't tell you all the 
specifics of it, Katniss. The Capitol's very secretive 
about this form of torture, and I believe the results 
are inconsistent. This we do know. It's a type of fear 
conditioning. The term hijack comes from an old 
English word that means 'to capture,' or even better, 
'seize.' We believe it was chosen because the 
technique involves the use of tracker jacker venom, 
and the jack suggested hijack. You were stung in your 
first Hunger Games, so unlike most of us, you have 
firsthand knowledge of the effects of the venom." 

Terror. Hallucinations. Nightmarish visions of losing 
those I love. Because the venom targets the part of 
the brain that houses fear. 

"I'm sure you remember how frightening it was. Did 
you also suffer mental confusion in the aftermath?" 
asks Beetee. "A sense of being unable to judge what 
was true and what was false? Most people who have 
been stung and lived to tell about it report something 
of the kind." 

Yes. That encounter with Peeta. Even after I was 
clearheaded, I wasn't sure if he had saved my life by 
taking on Cato or if I'd imagined it. 

"Recall is made more difficult because memories can 
be changed." Beetee taps his forehead. "Brought to 
the forefront of your mind, altered, and saved again in 
the revised form. Now imagine that I ask you to 
remember something— either with a verbal suggestion 
or by making you watch a tape of the event— and 
while that experience is refreshed, I give you a dose of 
tracker jacker venom. Not enough to induce a three- 
day blackout. Just enough to infuse the memory with 
fear and doubt. And that's what your brain puts in 
long-term storage." 



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I start to feel sick. Prim asks the question that's in my 
mind. "Is that what they've done to Peeta? Taken his 
memories of Katniss and distorted them so they're 
scary?" 

Beetee nods. "So scary that he'd see her as life- 
threatening. That he might try to kill her. Yes, that's 
our current theory." 

I cover my face with my arms because this isn't 
happening. It isn't possible. For someone to make 
Peeta forget he loves me... no one could do that. 

"But you can reverse it, right?" asks Prim. 

"Um...very little data on that," says Plutarch. "None, 
really. If hijacking rehabilitation has been attempted 
before, we have no access to those records." 

"Well, you're going to try, aren't you?" Prim persists. 
"You're not just going to lock him up in some padded 
room and leave him to suffer?" 

"Of course, we'll try, Prim," says Beetee. "It's just, we 
don't know to what degree we'll succeed. If any. My 
guess is that fearful events are the hardest to root 
out. They're the ones we naturally remember the best, 
after all." 

"And apart from his memories of Katniss, we don't yet 
know what else has been tampered with," says 
Plutarch. "We're putting together a team of mental 
health and military professionals to come up with a 
counterattack. I, personally, feel optimistic that he'll 
make a full recovery." 

"Do you?" asks Prim caustically. "And what do you 
think, Haymitch?" 



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I shift my arms slightly so I can see his expression 
through the crack. He's exhausted and discouraged 
as he admits, "I think Peeta might get somewhat 
better. But... I don't think he'll ever be the same." I 
snap my arms back together, closing the crack, 
shutting them all out. 

"At least he's alive," says Plutarch, as if he's losing 
patience with the lot of us. "Snow executed Peeta' s 
stylist and his prep team on live television tonight. 
We've no idea what happened to Effie Trinket. Peeta' s 
damaged, but he's here. With us. And that's a definite 
improvement over his situation twelve hours ago. 
Let's keep that in mind, all right?" 

Plutarch's attempt to cheer me up— laced with the 
news of another four, possibly five, murders— 
somehow backfires. Portia. Peeta's prep team. Effie. 
The effort to fight back tears makes my throat throb 
until I'm gasping again. Eventually, they have no 
choice but to sedate me. 

When I wake, I wonder if this will be the only way I 
sleep now, with drugs shot into my arm. I'm glad I'm 
not supposed to talk for the next few days, because 
there's nothing I want to say. Or do. In fact, I'm a 
model patient, my lethargy taken for restraint, 
obedience to the doctors' orders. I no longer feel like 
crying. In fact, I can only manage to hold on to one 
simple thought: an image of Snow's face accompanied 
by the whisper in my head. I will kill you. 

My mother and Prim take turns nursing me, coaxing 
me to swallow bites of soft food. People come in 
periodically to give me updates on Peeta's condition. 
The high levels of tracker j acker venom are working 
their way out of his body. He's being treated only by 
strangers, natives of 13— no one from home or the 
Capitol has been allowed to see him— to keep any 
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dangerous memories from triggering. A team of 
specialists works long hours designing a strategy for 
his recovery. 

Gale's not supposed to visit me, as he's confined to 
bed with some kind of shoulder wound. But on the 
third night, after I've been medicated and the lights 
turned down low for bedtime, he slips silently into my 
room. He doesn't speak, just runs his fingers over the 
bruises on my neck with a touch as light as moth 
wings, plants a kiss between my eyes, and 
disappears. 

The next morning, I'm discharged from the hospital 
with instructions to move quietly and speak only 
when necessary. I'm not imprinted with a schedule, 
so I wander around aimlessly until Prim's excused 
from her hospital duties to take me to our family's 
latest compartment. 2212. Identical to the last one, 
but with no window. 

Buttercup has now been issued a daily food allowance 
and a pan of sand that's kept under the bathroom 
sink. As Prim tucks me into bed, he hops up on my 
pillow, vying for her attention. She cradles him but 
stays focused on me. "Katniss, I know this whole 
thing with Peeta is terrible for you. But remember, 
Snow worked on him for weeks, and we've only had 
him for a few days. There's a chance that the old 
Peeta, the one who loves you, is still inside. Trying to 
get back to you. Don't give up on him." 

I look at my little sister and think how she has 
inherited the best qualities our family has to offer: my 
mother's healing hands, my father's level head, and 
my fight. There's something else there as well, 
something entirely her own. An ability to look into the 
confusing mess of life and see things for what they 



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are. Is it possible she could be right? That Peeta could 
return to me? 

"I have to get back to the hospital," Prim says, placing 
Buttercup on the bed beside me. "You two keep each 
other company, okay?" 

Buttercup springs off the bed and follows her to the 
door, complaining loudly when he's left behind. We're 
about as much company for each other as dirt. After 
maybe thirty seconds, I know I can't stand being 
confined in the subterranean cell, and leave 
Buttercup to his own devices. I get lost several times, 
but eventually I make my way down to Special 
Defense. Everyone I pass stares at the bruises, and I 
can't help feeling self-conscious to the point that I tug 
my collar up to my ears. 

Gale must have been released from the hospital this 
morning as well, because I find him in one of the 
research rooms with Beetee. They're immersed, heads 
bent over a drawing, taking a measurement. Versions 
of the picture litter the table and floor. Tacked on the 
corkboard walls and occupying several computer 
screens are other designs of some sort. In the rough 
lines of one, I recognize Gale's twitch-up snare. "What 
are these?" I ask hoarsely, pulling their attention from 
the sheet. 

"Ah, Katniss, you've found us out," says Beetee 
cheerfully. 

"What? Is this a secret?" I know Gale's been down 
here working with Beetee a lot, but I assumed they 
were messing around with bows and guns. 

"Not really. But I've felt a little guilty about it. Stealing 
Gale away from you so much," Beetee admits. 



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Since I've spent most of my time in 13 disoriented, 
worried, angry, being remade, or hospitalized, I can't 
say Gale's absences have inconvenienced me. Things 
haven't been exactly harmonious between us, either. 
But I let Beetee think he owes me. "I hope you've been 
putting his time to good use." 

"Come and see," he says, waving me over to a 
computer screen. 

This is what they've been doing. Taking the 
fundamental ideas behind Gale's traps and adapting 
them into weapons against humans. Bombs mostly. 
It's less about the mechanics of the traps than the 
psychology behind them. Booby-trapping an area that 
provides something essential to survival. A water or 
food supply. Frightening prey so that a large number 
flee into a greater destruction. Endangering off-spring 
in order to draw in the actual desired target, the 
parent. Luring the victim into what appears to be a 
safe haven— where death awaits it. At some point, 
Gale and Beetee left the wilderness behind and 
focused on more human impulses. Like compassion. 
A bomb explodes. Time is allowed for people to rush 
to the aid of the wounded. Then a second, more 
powerful bomb kills them as well. 

"That seems to be crossing some kind of line," I say. 
"So anything goes?" They both stare at me— Beetee 
with doubt, Gale with hostility. "I guess there isn't a 
rule book for what might be unacceptable to do to 
another human being." 

"Sure there is. Beetee and I have been following the 
same rule book President Snow used when he 
hijacked Peeta," says Gale. 

Cruel, but to the point. I leave without further 
comment. I feel if I don't get outside immediately, I'll 
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just go ballistic, but I'm still in Special Defense when 
I'm waylaid by Haymitch. "Come on," he says. "We 
need you back up at the hospital." 

"What for?" I ask. 

"They're going to try something on Peeta," he answers. 
"Send in the most innocuous person from Twelve they 
can come up with. Find someone Peeta might share 
childhood memories with, but nothing too close to 
you. They're screening people now." 

I know this will be a difficult task, since anyone Peeta 
shares childhood memories with would most likely be 
from town, and almost none of those people escaped 
the flames. But when we reach the hospital room that 
has been turned into a work space for Peeta's 
recovery team, there she sits chatting with Plutarch. 
Delly Cartwright. As always, she gives me a smile that 
suggests I'm her best friend in the world. She gives 
this smile to everyone. "Katniss!" she calls out. 

"Hey, Delly," I say. I'd heard she and her younger 
brother had survived. Her parents, who ran the shoe 
shop in town, weren't as lucky. She looks older, 
wearing the drab 13 clothes that flatter no one, with 
her long yellow hair in a practical braid instead of 
curls. Delly' s a bit thinner than I remember, but she 
was one of the few kids in District 12 with a couple of 
pounds to spare. The diet here, the stress, the grief of 
losing her parents have all, no doubt, contributed. 
"How are you doing?" I ask. 

"Oh, it's been a lot of changes all at once." Her eyes 
fill with tears. "But everyone's really nice here in 
Thirteen, don't you think?" 



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Delly means it. She genuinely likes people. All people, 
not just a select few she's spent years making up her 
mind about. 

"They've made an effort to make us feel welcome," I 
say. I think that's a fair statement without going 
overboard. "Are you the one they've picked to see 
Peeta?" 

"I guess so. Poor Peeta. Poor you. I'll never 
understand the Capitol," she says. 

"Better not to, maybe," I tell her. 

"Delly's known Peeta for a long time," says Plutarch. 

"Oh, yes!" Delly's face brightens. "We played together 
from when we were little. I used to tell people he was 
my brother." 

"What do you think?" Haymitch asks me. "Anything 
that might trigger memories of you?" 

"We were all in the same class. But we never 
overlapped much," I say. 

"Katniss was always so amazing, I never dreamed she 
would notice me," says Delly. "The way she could 
hunt and go in the Hob and everything. Everyone 
admired her so." 

Haymitch and I both have to take a hard look at her 
face to double-check if she's joking. To hear Delly 
describe it, I had next to no friends because I 
intimidated people by being so exceptional. Not true. I 
had next to no friends because I wasn't friendly. 
Leave it to Delly to spin me into something wonderful. 



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"Delly always thinks the best of everyone," I explain. "I 
don't think Peeta could have bad memories associated 
with her." Then I remember. "Wait. In the Capitol. 
When I lied about recognizing the Avox girl. Peeta 
covered for me and said she looked like Delly." 

"I remember," says Haymitch. "But I don't know. It 
wasn't true. Delly wasn't actually there. I don't think 
it can compete with years of childhood memories." 

"Especially with such a pleasant companion as Delly," 
says Plutarch. "Let's give it a shot." 

Plutarch, Haymitch, and I go to the observation room 
next to where Peeta's confined. It's crowded with ten 
members of his recovery team armed with pens and 
clipboards. The one-way glass and audio setup allow 
us to watch Peeta secretly. He lies on the bed, his 
arms strapped down. He doesn't fight the restraints, 
but his hands fidget continuously. His expression 
seems more lucid than when he tried to strangle me, 
but it's still not one that belongs to him. 

When the door quietly opens, his eyes widen in alarm, 
then become confused. Delly crosses the room 
tentatively, but as she nears him she naturally breaks 
into a smile. "Peeta? It's Delly. From home." 

"Delly?" Some of the clouds seem to clear. "Delly. It's 
you." 

"Yes!" she says with obvious relief. "How do you feel?" 
"Awful. Where are we? What's happened?" asks Peeta. 
"Here we go," says Haymitch. 



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"I told her to steer clear of any mention of Katniss or 
the Capitol," says Plutarch. "Just see how much of 
home she could conjure up." 

"Well... we're in District Thirteen. We live here now," 
says Delly. 

"That's what those people have been saying. But it 
makes no sense. Why aren't we home?" asks Peeta. 

Delly bites her lip. "There was... an accident. I miss 
home badly, too. I was only just thinking about those 
chalk drawings we used to do on the paving stones. 
Yours were so wonderful. Remember when you made 
each one a different animal?" 

"Yeah. Pigs and cats and things," says Peeta. "You 
said... about an accident?" 

I can see the sheen of sweat on Delly' s forehead as 
she tries to work around the question. "It was bad. No 
one... could stay," she says haltingly. 

"Hang in there, girl," says Haymitch. 

"But I know you're going to like it here, Peeta. The 
people have been really nice to us. There's always 
food and clean clothes, and school's much more 
interesting," says Delly. 

"Why hasn't my family come to see me?" Peeta asks. 

"They can't." Delly's tearing up again. "A lot of people 
didn't get out of Twelve. So we'll need to make a new 
life here. I'm sure they could use a good baker. Do 
you remember when your father used to let us make 
dough girls and boys?" 

"There was a fire," Peeta says suddenly. 



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"Yes," she whispers. 



"Twelve burned down, didn't it? Because of her," says 
Peeta angrily. "Because of Katniss!" He begins to pull 
on the restraints. 

"Oh, no, Peeta. It wasn't her fault," says Delly. 

"Did she tell you that?" he hisses at her. 

"Get her out of there," says Plutarch. The door opens 
immediately and Delly begins to back toward it 
slowly. 

"She didn't have to. I was—" Delly begins. 

"Because she's lying! She's a liar! You can't believe 
anything she says! She's some kind of mutt the 
Capitol created to use against the rest of us!" Peeta 
shouts. 

"No, Peeta. She's not a—" Delly tries again. 

"Don't trust her, Delly," says Peeta in a frantic voice. 
"I did, and she tried to kill me. She killed my friends. 
My family. Don't even go near her! She's a mutt!" 

A hand reaches through the doorway, pulls Delly out, 
and the door swings shut. But Peeta keeps yelling. "A 
mutt! She's a stinking mutt!" 

Not only does he hate me and want to kill me, he no 
longer believes I'm human. It was less painful being 
strangled. 

Around me the recovery team members scribble like 
crazy, taking down every word. Haymitch and 
Plutarch grab my arms and propel me out of the 
room. They lean me up against a wall in the silent 



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hallway. But I know Peeta continues to scream 
behind the door and the glass. 

Prim was wrong. Peeta is irretrievable. "I can't stay 
here anymore," I say numbly. "If you want me to be 
the Mockingjay, you'll have to send me away." 

"Where do you want to go?" asks Haymitch. 

"The Capitol." It's the only place I can think of where I 
have a job to do. 

"Can't do it," Plutarch says. "Not until all the districts 
are secure. Good news is, the fighting's almost over in 
all of them but Two. It's a tough nut to crack, 
though." 

That's right. First the districts. Next the Capitol. And 
then I hunt down Snow. 

"Fine," I say. "Send me to Two." 



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District 2 is a large district, as one might expect, 
composed of a series of villages spread across the 
mountains. Each was originally associated with a 
mine or quarry, although now, many are devoted to 
the housing and training of Peacekeepers. None of 
this would present much of a challenge, since the 
rebels have 13's airpower on their side, except for one 
thing: At the center of the district is a virtually 
impenetrable mountain that houses the heart of the 
Capitol's military. 

We've nicknamed the mountain the Nut since I 
relayed Plutarch's "tough nut to crack" comment to 
the weary and discouraged rebel leaders here. The 
Nut was established directly after the Dark Days, 
when the Capitol had lost 13 and was desperate for a 
new underground stronghold. They had some of their 
military resources situated on the outskirts of the 
Capitol itself— nuclear missiles, aircraft, troops— but a 
significant chunk of their power was now under an 
enemy's control. Of course, there was no way they 
could hope to replicate 13, which was the work of 
centuries. However, in the old mines of nearby 
District 2, they saw opportunity. From the air, the 
Nut appeared to be just another mountain with a few 
entrances on its faces. But inside were vast cavernous 
spaces where slabs of stones had been cut, hauled to 
the surface, and transported down slippery narrow 
roads to make distant buildings. There was even a 
train system to facilitate transporting the miners from 
the Nut to the very center of the main town in District 
2. It ran right to the square that Peeta and I visited 
during the Victory Tour, standing on the wide marble 
steps of the Justice Building, trying not to look too 



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closely at Cato's and Clove's grieving families 
assembled below us. 



It was not the most ideal terrain, plagued as it was by 
mudslides, floods, and avalanches. But the 
advantages outweighed the concerns. As they'd cut 
deep into the mountain, the miners had left large 
pillars and walls of stone to support the 
infrastructure. The Capitol reinforced these and set 
about making the mountain their new military base. 
Filling it with computer banks and meeting rooms, 
barracks and arsenals. Widening entrances to allow 
the exit of hovercraft from the hangar, installing 
missile launchers. But on the whole, leaving the 
exterior of the mountain largely unchanged. A rough, 
rocky tangle of trees and wildlife. A natural fortress to 
protect them from their enemies. 

By the other districts' standards, the Capitol babied 
the inhabitants here. Just by looking at the District 2 
rebels, you can tell they were decently fed and cared 
for in childhood. Some did end up as quarry and mine 
workers. Others were educated for jobs in the Nut or 
funneled into the ranks of Peacekeepers. Trained 
young and hard for combat. The Hunger Games were 
an opportunity for wealth and a kind of glory not seen 
elsewhere. Of course, the people of 2 swallowed the 
Capitol's propaganda more easily than the rest of us. 
Embraced their ways. But for all that, at the end of 
the day, they were still slaves. And if that was lost on 
the citizens who became Peacekeepers or worked in 
the Nut, it was not lost on the stonecutters who 
formed the backbone of the resistance here. 

Things stand as they did when I arrived two weeks 
ago. The outer villages are in rebel hands, the town 
divided, and the Nut is as untouchable as ever. Its 
few entrances heavily fortified, its heart safely 
enfolded in the mountain. While every other district 



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has now wrested control from the Capitol, 2 remains 
in its pocket. 



Each day, I do whatever I can to help. Visit the 
wounded. Tape short propos with my camera crew. 
I'm not allowed in actual combat, but they invite me 
to the meetings on the status of the war, which is a 
lot more than they did in 13. It's much better here. 
Freer, no schedules on my arm, fewer demands on my 
time. I live aboveground in the rebel villages or 
surrounding caves. For safety's sake, I'm relocated 
often. During the day, I've been given clearance to 
hunt as long as I take a guard along and don't stray 
too far. In the thin, cold mountain air, I feel some 
physical strength returning, my mind clearing away 
the rest of the fogginess. But with this mental clarity 
comes an even sharper awareness of what has been 
done to Peeta. 

Snow has stolen him from me, twisted him beyond 
recognition, and made me a present of him. Boggs, 
who came to 2 when I did, told me that even with all 
the plotting, it was a little too easy to rescue Peeta. He 
believes if 13 hadn't made the effort, Peeta would've 
been delivered to me anyway. Dropped off in an 
actively warring district or perhaps 13 itself. Tied up 
with ribbons and tagged with my name. Programmed 
to murder me. 

It's only now that he's been corrupted that I can fully 
appreciate the real Peeta. Even more than I would've 
if he'd died. The kindness, the steadiness, the warmth 
that had an unexpected heat behind it. Outside of 
Prim, my mother, and Gale, how many people in the 
world love me unconditionally? I think in my case, the 
answer may now be none. Sometimes when I'm alone, 
I take the pearl from where it lives in my pocket and 
try to remember the boy with the bread, the strong 
arms that warded off nightmares on the train, the 



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kisses in the arena. To make myself put a name to 
the thing I've lost. But what's the use? It's gone. He's 
gone. Whatever existed between us is gone. All that's 
left is my promise to kill Snow. I tell myself this ten 
times a day. 

Back in 13, Peeta's rehabilitation continues. Even 
though I don't ask, Plutarch gives me cheerful 
updates on the phone like "Good news, Katniss! I 
think we've almost got him convinced you're not a 
mutt!" Or "Today he was allowed to feed himself 
pudding!" 

When Haymitch gets on after, he admits Peeta's no 
better. The only dubious ray of hope has come from 
my sister. "Prim came up with the idea of trying to 
hijack him back," Haymitch tells me. "Bring up the 
distorted memories of you and then give him a big 
dose of a calming drug, like morphling. We've only 
tried it on one memory. The tape of the two of you in 
the cave, when you told him that story about getting 
Prim the goat." 

"Any improvement?" I ask. 

"Well, if extreme confusion is an improvement over 
extreme terror, then yes," says Haymitch. "But I'm not 
sure it is. He lost the ability to speak for several 
hours. Went into some sort of stupor. When he came 
out, the only thing he asked about was the goat." 

"Right," I say. 

"How's it out there?" he asks. 
"No forward motion," I tell him. 



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"We're sending out a team to help with the mountain. 
Beetee and some of the others," he says. "You know, 
the brains." 

When the brains are selected, I'm not surprised to see 
Gale's name on the list. I thought Beetee would bring 
him, not for his technological expertise, but in the 
hopes that he could somehow think of a way to 
ensnare a mountain. Originally, Gale offered to come 
with me to 2, but I could see I was tearing him away 
from his work with Beetee. I told him to sit tight and 
stay where he was most needed. I didn't tell him his 
presence would make it even more difficult for me to 
mourn Peeta. 

Gale finds me when they arrive late one afternoon. I'm 
sitting on a log at the edge of my current village, 
plucking a goose. A dozen or so of the birds are piled 
at my feet. Great flocks of them have been migrating 
through here since I've arrived, and the pickings are 
easy. Without a word, Gale settles beside me and 
begins to relieve a bird of its feathers. We're through 
about half when he says, "Any chance we'll get to eat 
these?" 

"Yeah. Most go to the camp kitchen, but they expect 
me to give a couple to whoever I'm staying with 
tonight," I say. "For keeping me." 

"Isn't the honor of the thing enough?" he says. 

"You'd think," I reply. "But word's gotten out that 
mockingjays are hazardous to your health." 

We pluck in silence for a while longer. Then he says, 
"I saw Peeta yesterday. Through the glass." 

"What'd you think?" I ask. 



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"Something selfish," says Gale. 

"That you don't have to be jealous of him anymore?" 
My fingers give a yank, and a cloud of feathers floats 
down around us. 

"No. Just the opposite." Gale pulls a feather out of my 
hair. "I thought... I'll never compete with that. No 
matter how much pain I'm in." He spins the feather 
between his thumb and forefinger. "I don't stand a 
chance if he doesn't get better. You'll never be able to 
let him go. You'll always feel wrong about being with 
me." 

"The way I always felt wrong kissing him because of 
you," I say. 

Gale holds my gaze. "If I thought that was true, I 
could almost live with the rest of it." 

"It is true," I admit. "But so is what you said about 
Peeta." 

Gale makes a sound of exasperation. Nonetheless, 
after we've dropped off the birds and volunteered to go 
back to the woods to gather kindling for the evening 
fire, I find myself wrapped in his arms. His lips 
brushing the faded bruises on my neck, working their 
way to my mouth. Despite what I feel for Peeta, this is 
when I accept deep down that he'll never come back 
to me. Or I'll never go back to him. I'll stay in 2 until 
it falls, go to the Capitol and kill Snow, and then die 
for my trouble. And he'll die insane and hating me. So 
in the fading light I shut my eyes and kiss Gale to 
make up for all the kisses I've withheld, and because 
it doesn't matter anymore, and because I'm so 
desperately lonely I can't stand it. 



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Gale's touch and taste and heat remind me that at 
least my body's still alive, and for the moment it's a 
welcome feeling. I empty my mind and let the 
sensations run through my flesh, happy to lose 
myself. When Gale pulls away slightly, I move forward 
to close the gap, but I feel his hand under my chin. 
"Katniss," he says. The instant I open my eyes, the 
world seems disjointed. This is not our woods or our 
mountains or our way. My hand automatically goes to 
the scar on my left temple, which I associate with 
confusion. "Now kiss me." Bewildered, unblinking, I 
stand there while he leans in and presses his lips to 
mine briefly. He examines my face closely. "What's 
going on in your head?" 

"I don't know," I whisper back. 

"Then it's like kissing someone who's drunk. It 
doesn't count," he says with a weak attempt at a 
laugh. He scoops up a pile of kindling and drops it in 
my empty arms, returning me to myself. 

"How do you know?" I say, mostly to cover my 
embarrassment. "Have you kissed someone who's 
drunk?" I guess Gale could've been kissing girls right 
and left back in 12. He certainly had enough takers. I 
never thought about it much before. 

He just shakes his head. "No. But it's not hard to 
imagine." 

"So, you never kissed any other girls?" I ask. 

"I didn't say that. You know, you were only twelve 
when we met. And a real pain besides. I did have a 
life outside of hunting with you," he says, loading up 
with firewood. 



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Suddenly, I'm genuinely curious. "Who did you kiss? 
And where?" 

"Too many to remember. Behind the school, on the 
slag heap, you name it," he says. 

I roll my eyes. "So when did I become so special? 
When they carted me off to the Capitol?" 

"No. About six months before that. Right after New 
Year's. We were in the Hob, eating some slop of 
Greasy Sae's. And Darius was teasing you about 
trading a rabbit for one of his kisses. And I realized... I 
minded," he tells me. 

I remember that day. Bitter cold and dark by four in 
the afternoon. We'd been hunting, but a heavy snow 
had driven us back into town. The Hob was crowded 
with people looking for refuge from the weather. 
Greasy Sae's soup, made with stock from the bones of 
a wild dog we'd shot a week earlier, was below her 
usual standards. Still, it was hot, and I was starving 
as I scooped it up, sitting cross-legged on her counter. 
Darius was leaning on the post of the stall, tickling 
my cheek with the end of my braid, while I smacked 
his hand away. He was explaining why one of his 
kisses merited a rabbit, or possibly two, since 
everyone knows redheaded men are the most virile. 
And Greasy Sae and I were laughing because he was 
so ridiculous and persistent and kept pointing out 
women around the Hob who he said had paid far 
more than a rabbit to enjoy his lips. "See? The one in 
the green muffler? Go ahead and ask her. If you need 
a reference." 

A million miles from here, a billion days ago, this 
happened. "Darius was just joking around," I say. 



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"Probably. Although you'd be the last to figure out if 
he wasn't," Gale tells me. "Take Peeta. Take me. Or 
even Finnick. I was starting to worry he had his eye 
on you, but he seems back on track now." 

"You don't know Finnick if you think he'd love me," I 
say. 

Gale shrugs. "I know he was desperate. That makes 
people do all kinds of crazy things." 

I can't help thinking that's directed at me. 

Bright and early the next morning, the brains 
assemble to take on the problem of the Nut. I'm asked 
to the meeting, although I don't have much to 
contribute. I avoid the conference table and perch in 
the wide windowsill that has a view of the mountain 
in question. The commander from 2, a middle-aged 
woman named Lyme, takes us on a virtual tour of the 
Nut, its interior and fortifications, and recounts the 
failed attempts to seize it. I've crossed paths with her 
briefly a couple of times since my arrival, and was 
dogged by the feeling I'd met her before. She's 
memorable enough, standing over six feet tall and 
heavily muscled. But it's only when I see a clip of her 
in the field, leading a raid on the main entrance of the 
Nut, that something clicks and I realize I'm in the 
presence of another victor. Lyme, the tribute from 
District 2, who won her Hunger Games over a 
generation ago. Effie sent us her tape, among others, 
to prepare for the Quarter Quell. I've probably caught 
glimpses of her during the Games over the years, but 
she's kept a low profile. With my newfound knowledge 
of Haymitch's and Finnick's treatment, all I can think 
is: What did the Capitol do to her after she won? 

When Lyme finishes the presentation, the questions 
from the brains begin. Hours pass, and lunch comes 
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and goes, as they try to come up with a realistic plan 
for taking the Nut. But while Beetee thinks he might 
be able to override certain computer systems, and 
there's some discussion of putting the handful of 
internal spies to use, no one has any really innovative 
thoughts. As the afternoon wears on, talk keeps 
returning to a strategy that has been tried repeatedly- 
-the storming of the entrances. I can see Lyme's 
frustration building because so many variations of 
this plan have already failed, so many of her soldiers 
have been lost. Finally, she bursts out, "The next 
person who suggests we take the entrances better 
have a brilliant way to do it, because you're going to 
be the one leading that mission!" 

Gale, who is too restless to sit at the table for more 
than a few hours, has been alternating between 
pacing and sharing my windowsill. Early on, he 
seemed to accept Lyme's assertion that the entrances 
couldn't be taken, and dropped out of the 
conversation entirely. For the last hour or so, he's sat 
quietly, his brow knitted in concentration, staring at 
the Nut through the window glass. In the silence that 
follows Lyme's ultimatum, he speaks up. "Is it really 
so necessary that we take the Nut? Or would it be 
enough to disable it?" 

"That would be a step in the right direction," says 
Beetee. "What do you have in mind?" 

"Think of it as a wild dog den," Gale continues. 
"You're not going to fight your way in. So you have 
two choices. Trap the dogs inside or flush them out." 

"We've tried bombing the entrances," says Lyme. 
"They're set too far inside the stone for any real 
damage to be done." 



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"I wasn't thinking of that," says Gale. "I was thinking 
of using the mountain." Beetee rises and joins Gale at 
the window, peering through his ill-fitting glasses. 
"See? Running down the sides?" 

"Avalanche paths," says Beetee under his breath. "It'd 
be tricky. We'd have to design the detonation 
sequence with great care, and once it's in motion, we 
couldn't hope to control it." 

"We don't need to control it if we give up the idea that 
we have to possess the Nut," says Gale. "Only shut it 
down." 

"So you're suggesting we start avalanches and block 
the entrances?" asks Lyme. 

"That's it," says Gale. "Trap the enemy inside, cut off 
from supplies. Make it impossible for them to send 
out their hovercraft." 

While everyone considers the plan, Boggs flips 
through a stack of blueprints of the Nut and frowns. 
"You risk killing everyone inside. Look at the 
ventilation system. It's rudimentary at best. Nothing 
like what we have in Thirteen. It depends entirely on 
pumping in air from the mountainsides. Block those 
vents and you'll suffocate whoever is trapped." 

"They could still escape through the train tunnel to 
the square," says Beetee. 

"Not if we blow it up," says Gale brusquely. His intent, 
his full intent, becomes clear. Gale has no interest in 
preserving the lives of those in the Nut. No interest in 
caging the prey for later use. 

This is one of his death traps. 



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The implications of what Gale is suggesting settle 
quietly around the room. You can see the reaction 
playing out on people's faces. The expressions range 
from pleasure to distress, from sorrow to satisfaction. 

"The majority of the workers are citizens from Two," 
says Beetee neutrally. 

"So what?" says Gale. "We'll never be able to trust 
them again." 

"They should at least have a chance to surrender," 
says Lyme. 

"Well, that's a luxury we weren't given when they fire- 
bombed Twelve, but you're all so much cozier with the 
Capitol here," says Gale. By the look on Lyme's face, I 
think she might shoot him, or at least take a swing. 
She'd probably have the upper hand, too, with all her 
training. But her anger only seems to infuriate him 
and he yells, "We watched children burn to death and 
there was nothing we could do!" 

I have to close my eyes a minute, as the image rips 
through me. It has the desired effect. I want everyone 
in that mountain dead. Am about to say so. But 
then. ..I'm also a girl from District 12. Not President 
Snow. I can't help it. I can't condemn someone to the 
death he's suggesting. "Gale," I say, taking his arm 
and trying to speak in a reasonable tone. "The Nut's 
an old mine. It'd be like causing a massive coal 
mining accident." Surely the words are enough to 
make anyone from 12 think twice about the plan. 



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"But not so quick as the one that killed our fathers," 
he retorts. "Is that everyone's problem? That our 
enemies might have a few hours to reflect on the fact 
that they're dying, instead of just being blown to 
bits?" 

Back in the old days, when we were nothing more 
than a couple of kids hunting outside of 12, Gale said 
things like this and worse. But then they were just 
words. Here, put into practice, they become deeds 
that can never be reversed. 

"You don't know how those District Two people ended 
up in the Nut," I say. "They may have been coerced. 
They may be held against their will. Some are our 
own spies. Will you kill them, too?" 

"I would sacrifice a few, yes, to take out the rest of 
them," he replies. "And if I were a spy in there, I'd say, 
'Bring on the avalanches!'" 

I know he's telling the truth. That Gale would 
sacrifice his life in this way for the cause— no one 
doubts it. Perhaps we'd all do the same if we were the 
spies and given the choice. I guess I would. But it's a 
coldhearted decision to make for other people and 
those who love them. 

"You said we had two choices," Boggs tells him. "To 
trap them or to flush them out. I say we try to 
avalanche the mountain but leave the train tunnel 
alone. People can escape into the square, where we'll 
be waiting for them." 

"Heavily armed, I hope," says Gale. "You can be sure 
they'll be." 

"Heavily armed. We'll take them prisoner," agrees 
Boggs. 



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"Let's bring Thirteen into the loop now," Beetee 
suggests. "Let President Coin weigh in." 



"She'll want to block the tunnel," says Gale with 
conviction. 

"Yes, most likely. But you know, Peeta did have a 
point in his propos. About the dangers of killing 
ourselves off. I've been playing with some numbers. 
Factoring in the casualties and the wounded and... I 
think it's at least worth a conversation," says Beetee. 

Only a handful of people are invited to be part of that 
conversation. Gale and I are released with the rest. I 
take him hunting so he can blow off some steam, but 
he's not talking about it. Probably too angry with me 
for countering him. 

The call does happen, a decision is made, and by 
evening I'm suited up in my Mockingjay outfit, with 
my bow slung over my shoulder and an earpiece that 
connects me to Haymitch in 13— just in case a good 
opportunity for a propo arises. We wait on the roof of 
the Justice Building with a clear view of our target. 

Our hoverplanes are initially ignored by the 
commanders in the Nut, because in the past they've 
been little more trouble than flies buzzing around a 
honeypot. But after two rounds of bombings in the 
higher elevations of the mountain, the planes have 
their attention. By the time the Capitol's antiaircraft 
weapons begin to fire, it's already too late. 

Gale's plan exceeds anyone's expectations. Beetee 
was right about being unable to control the 
avalanches once they'd been set in motion. The 
mountainsides are naturally unstable, but weakened 
by the explosions, they seem almost fluid. Whole 
sections of the Nut collapse before our eyes, 



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obliterating any sign that human beings have ever set 
foot on the place. We stand speechless, tiny and 
insignificant, as waves of stone thunder down the 
mountain. Burying the entrances under tons of rock. 
Raising a cloud of dirt and debris that blackens the 
sky. Turning the Nut into a tomb. 

I imagine the hell inside the mountain. Sirens wailing. 
Lights flickering into darkness. Stone dust choking 
the air. The shrieks of panicked, trapped beings 
stumbling madly for a way out, only to find the 
entrances, the launchpad, the ventilation shafts 
themselves clogged with earth and rock trying to force 
its way in. Live wires flung free, fires breaking out, 
rubble making a familiar path a maze. People 
slamming, shoving, scrambling like ants as the hill 
presses in, threatening to crush their fragile shells. 

"Katniss?" Haymitch's voice is in my earpiece. I try to 
answer back and find both of my hands are clamped 
tightly over my mouth. "Katniss!" 

On the day my father died, the sirens went off during 
my school lunch. No one waited for dismissal, or was 
expected to. The response to a mine accident was 
something outside the control of even the Capitol. I 
ran to Prim's class. I still remember her, tiny at seven, 
very pale, but sitting straight up with her hands 
folded on her desk. Waiting for me to collect her as I'd 
promised I would if the sirens ever sounded. She 
sprang out of her seat, grabbed my coat sleeve, and 
we wove through the streams of people pouring out 
onto the streets to pool at the main entrance of the 
mine. We found our mother clenching the rope that 
had been hastily strung to keep the crowd back. In 
retrospect, I guess I should have known there was a 
problem right then. Because why were we looking for 
her, when the reverse should have been true? 



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The elevators were screeching, burning up and down 
their cables as they vomited smoke-blackened miners 
into the light of day. With each group came cries of 
relief, relatives diving under the rope to lead off their 
husbands, wives, children, parents, siblings. We 
stood in the freezing air as the afternoon turned 
overcast, a light snow dusted the earth. The elevators 
moved more slowly now and disgorged fewer beings. I 
knelt on the ground and pressed my hands into the 
cinders, wanting so badly to pull my father free. If 
there's a more helpless feeling than trying to reach 
someone you love who's trapped underground, I don't 
know it. The wounded. The bodies. The waiting 
through the night. Blankets put around your 
shoulders by strangers. A mug of something hot that 
you don't drink. And then finally, at dawn, the grieved 
expression on the face of the mine captain that could 
only mean one thing. 

What did we just do? 

"Katniss! Are you there?" Haymitch is probably 
making plans to have me fitted for a head shackle at 
this very moment. 

I drop my hands. "Yes." 

"Get inside. Just in case the Capitol tries to retaliate 
with what's left of its air force," he instructs. 

"Yes," I repeat. Everyone on the roof, except for the 
soldiers manning the machine guns, begin to make 
their way inside. As I descend the stairs, I can't help 
brushing my fingers along the unblemished white 
marble walls. So cold and beautiful. Even in the 
Capitol, there's nothing to match the magnificence of 
this old building. But there is no give to the surface- 
only my flesh yields, my warmth taken. Stone 
conquers people every time. 

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I sit at the base of one of the gigantic pillars in the 
great entrance hall. Through the doors I can see the 
white expanse of marble that leads to the steps on the 
square. I remember how sick I was the day Peeta and 
I accepted congratulations there for winning the 
Games. Worn down by the Victory Tour, failing in my 
attempt to calm the districts, facing the memories of 
Clove and Cato, particularly Cato's gruesome, slow 
death by mutts. 

Boggs crouches down beside me, his skin pale in the 
shadows. "We didn't bomb the train tunnel, you 
know. Some of them will probably get out." 

"And then we'll shoot them when they show their 
faces?" I ask. 

"Only if we have to," he answers. 

"We could send in trains ourselves. Help evacuate the 
wounded," I say. 

"No. It was decided to leave the tunnel in their hands. 
That way they can use all the tracks to bring people 
out," says Boggs. "Besides, it will give us time to get 
the rest of our soldiers to the square." 

A few hours ago, the square was a no-man's-land, the 
front line of the fight between the rebels and the 
Peacekeepers. When Coin gave approval for Gale's 
plan, the rebels launched a heated attack and drove 
the Capitol forces back several blocks so that we 
would control the train station in the event that the 
Nut fell. Well, it's fallen. The reality has sunk in. Any 
survivors will escape to the square. I can hear the 
gunfire starting again, as the Peacekeepers are no 
doubt trying to fight their way in to rescue their 
comrades. Our own soldiers are being brought in to 
counter this. 



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"You're cold," says Boggs. "I'll see if I can find a 
blanket." He goes before I can protest. I don't want a 
blanket, even if the marble continues to leech my 
body heat. 

"Katniss," says Haymitch in my ear. 
"Still here," I answer. 

"Interesting turn of events with Peeta this afternoon. 
Thought you'd want to know," he says. Interesting 
isn't good. It isn't better. But I don't really have any 
choice but to listen. "We showed him that clip of you 
singing 'The Hanging Tree.' It was never aired, so the 
Capitol couldn't use it when he was being hijacked. 
He says he recognized the song." 

For a moment, my heart skips a beat. Then I realize 
it's just more tracker j acker serum confusion. "He 
couldn't, Haymitch. He never heard me sing that 
song." 

"Not you. Your father. He heard him singing it one 
day when he came to trade at the bakery. Peeta was 
small, probably six or seven, but he remembered it 
because he was specially listening to see if the birds 
stopped singing," says Haymitch. "Guess they did." 

Six or seven. That would have been before my mother 
banned the song. Maybe even right around the time I 
was learning it. "Was I there, too?" 

"Don't think so. No mention of you anyway. But it's 
the first connection to you that hasn't triggered some 
mental meltdown," says Haymitch. "It's something, at 
least, Katniss." 

My father. He seems to be everywhere today. Dying in 
the mine. Singing his way into Peeta' s muddled 



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consciousness. Flickering in the look Boggs gives me 
as he protectively wraps the blanket around my 
shoulders. I miss him so badly it hurts. 

The gunfire's really picking up outside. Gale hurries 
by with a group of rebels, eagerly headed for the 
battle. I don't petition to join the fighters, not that 
they would let me. I have no stomach for it anyway, 
no heat in my blood. I wish Peeta was here— the old 
Peeta- -because he would be able to articulate why it 
is so wrong to be exchanging fire when people, any 
people, are trying to claw their way out of the 
mountain. Or is my own history making me too 
sensitive? Aren't we at war? Isn't this just another 
way to kill our enemies? 

Night falls quickly. Huge, bright spotlights are turned 
on, illuminating the square. Every bulb must be 
burning at full wattage inside the train station as 
well. Even from my position across the square, I can 
see clearly through the plate-glass front of the long, 
narrow building. It would be impossible to miss the 
arrival of a train, or even a single person. But hours 
pass and no one comes. With each minute, it 
becomes harder to imagine that anyone survived the 
assault on the Nut. 

It's well after midnight when Cressida comes to attach 
a special microphone to my costume. "What's this 
for?" I ask. 

Haymitch's voice comes on to explain. "I know you're 
not going to like this, but we need you to make a 
speech." 

"A speech?" I say, immediately feeling queasy. 

"I'll feed it to you, line by line," he assures me. "You'll 
just have to repeat what I say. Look, there's no sign of 
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life from that mountain. We've won, but the fighting's 
continuing. So we thought if you went out on the 
steps of the Justice Building and laid it out— told 
everybody that the Nut's defeated, that the Capitol's 
presence in District Two is finished— you might be 
able to get the rest of their forces to surrender." 

I peer at the darkness beyond the square. "I can't 
even see their forces." 

"That's what the mike's for," he says. "You'll be 
broadcast, both your voice through their emergency 
audio system, and your image wherever people have 
access to a screen." 

I know there are a couple of huge screens here on the 
square. I saw them on the Victory Tour. It might 
work, if I were good at this sort of thing. Which I'm 
not. They tried to feed me lines in those early 
experiments with the propos, too, and it was a flop. 

"You could save a lot of lives, Katniss," Haymitch says 
finally. 

"All right. I'll give it a try," I tell him. 

It's strange standing outside at the top of the stairs, 
fully costumed, brightly lit, but with no visible 
audience to deliver my speech to. Like I'm doing a 
show for the moon. 

"Let's make this quick," says Haymitch. "You're too 
exposed." 

My television crew, positioned out in the square with 
special cameras, indicates that they're ready. I tell 
Haymitch to go ahead, then click on my mike and 
listen carefully to him dictate the first line of the 
speech. A huge image of me lights up one of the 
203 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



screens over the square as I begin. "People of District 
Two, this is Katniss Everdeen speaking to you from 
the steps of your Justice Building, where—" 

The pair of trains comes screeching into the train 
station side by side. As the doors slide open, people 
tumble out in a cloud of smoke they've brought from 
the Nut. They must have had at least an inkling of 
what would await them at the square, because you 
can see them trying to act evasively. Most of them 
flatten on the floor, and a spray of bullets inside the 
station takes out the lights. They've come armed, as 
Gale predicted, but they've come wounded as well. 
The moans can be heard in the otherwise silent night 
air. 

Someone kills the lights on the stairs, leaving me in 
the protection of shadow. A flame blooms inside the 
station— one of the trains must actually be on fire— 
and a thick, black smoke billows against the 
windows. Left with no choice, the people begin to 
push out into the square, choking but defiantly 
waving their guns. My eyes dart around the rooftops 
that ring the square. Every one of them has been 
fortified with rebel-manned machine gun nests. 
Moonlight glints off oiled barrels. 

A young man staggers out from the station, one hand 
pressed against a bloody cloth at his cheek, the other 
dragging a gun. When he trips and falls to his face, I 
see the scorch marks down the back of his shirt, the 
red flesh beneath. And suddenly, he's just another 
burn victim from a mine accident. 

My feet fly down the steps and I take off running for 
him. "Stop!" I yell at the rebels. "Hold your fire!" The 
words echo around the square and beyond as the 
mike amplifies my voice. "Stop!" I'm nearing the 
young man, reaching down to help him, when he 

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drags himself up to his knees and trains his gun on 
my head. 

I instinctively back up a few steps, raise my bow over 
my head to show my intention was harmless. Now 
that he has both hands on his gun, I notice the 
ragged hole in his cheek where something— falling 
stone maybe— punctured the flesh. He smells of 
burning things, hair and meat and fuel. His eyes are 
crazed with pain and fear. 

"Freeze," Haymitch's voice whispers in my ear. I follow 
his order, realizing that this is what all of District 2, 
all of Panem maybe, must be seeing at the moment. 
The Mockingjay at the mercy of a man with nothing to 
lose. 

His garbled speech is barely comprehensible. "Give 
me one reason I shouldn't shoot you." 

The rest of the world recedes. There's only me looking 
into the wretched eyes of the man from the Nut who 
asks for one reason. Surely I should be able to come 
up with thousands. But the words that make it to my 
lips are "I can't." 

Logically, the next thing that should happen is the 
man pulling the trigger. But he's perplexed, trying to 
make sense of my words. I experience my own 
confusion as I realize what I've said is entirely true, 
and the noble impulse that carried me across the 
square is replaced by despair. "I can't. That's the 
problem, isn't it?" I lower my bow. "We blew up your 
mine. You burned my district to the ground. We've got 
every reason to kill each other. So do it. Make the 
Capitol happy. I'm done killing their slaves for them." 
I drop my bow on the ground and give it a nudge with 
my boot. It slides across the stone and comes to rest 
at his knees. 



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"I'm not their slave," the man mutters. 

"I am," I say. "That's why I killed Cato...and he killed 
Thresh... and he killed Clove... and she tried to kill me. 
It just goes around and around, and who wins? Not 
us. Not the districts. Always the Capitol. But I'm tired 
of being a piece in their Games." 

Peeta. On the rooftop the night before our first 
Hunger Games. He understood it all before we'd even 
set foot in the arena. I hope he's watching now, that 
he remembers that night as it happened, and maybe 
forgives me when I die. 

"Keep talking. Tell them about watching the mountain 
go down," Haymitch insists. 

"When I saw that mountain fall tonight, I 
thought... they've done it again. Got me to kill you— the 
people in the districts. But why did I do it? District 
Twelve and District Two have no fight except the one 
the Capitol gave us." The young man blinks at me 
uncomprehendingly. I sink on my knees before him, 
my voice low and urgent. "And why are you fighting 
with the rebels on the rooftops? With Lyme, who was 
your victor? With people who were your neighbors, 
maybe even your family?" 

"I don't know," says the man. But he doesn't take his 
gun off me. 

I rise and turn slowly in a circle, addressing the 
machine guns. "And you up there? I come from a 
mining town. Since when do miners condemn other 
miners to that kind of death, and then stand by to kill 
whoever manages to crawl from the rubble?" 

"Who is the enemy?" whispers Haymitch. 



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"These people"— I indicate the wounded bodies on the 
square— "are not your enemy!" I whip back around to 
the train station. "The rebels are not your enemy! We 
all have one enemy, and it's the Capitol! This is our 
chance to put an end to their power, but we need 
every district person to do it!" 

The cameras are tight on me as I reach out my hands 
to the man, to the wounded, to the reluctant rebels 
across Panem. "Please! Join us!" 

My words hang in the air. I look to the screen, hoping 
to see them recording some wave of reconciliation 
going through the crowd. 

Instead I watch myself get shot on television. 



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"Always." 



In the twilight of morphling, Peeta whispers the word 
and I go searching for him. It's a gauzy, violet-tinted 
world, with no hard edges, and many places to hide. I 
push through cloud banks, follow faint tracks, catch 
the scent of cinnamon, of dill. Once I feel his hand on 
my cheek and try to trap it, but it dissolves like mist 
through my fingers. 

When I finally begin to surface into the sterile hospital 
room in 13, I remember. I was under the influence of 
sleep syrup. My heel had been injured after I'd 
climbed out on a branch over the electric fence and 
dropped back into 12. Peeta had put me to bed and I 
had asked him to stay with me as I was drifting off. 
He had whispered something I couldn't quite catch. 
But some part of my brain had trapped his single 
word of reply and let it swim up through my dreams 
to taunt me now. "Always." 

Morphling dulls the extremes of all emotions, so 
instead of a stab of sorrow, I merely feel emptiness. A 
hollow of dead brush where flowers used to bloom. 
Unfortunately, there's not enough of the drug left in 
my veins for me to ignore the pain in the left side of 
my body. That's where the bullet hit. My hands 
fumble over the thick bandages encasing my ribs and 
I wonder what I'm still doing here. 

It wasn't him, the man kneeling before me on the 
square, the burned one from the Nut. He didn't pull 
the trigger. It was someone farther back in the crowd. 
There was less a sense of penetration than the feeling 



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that I'd been struck with a sledgehammer. Everything 
after the moment of impact is confusion riddled with 
gunfire. I try to sit up, but the only thing I manage is 
a moan. 

The white curtain that divides my bed from the next 
patient's whips back, and Johanna Mason stares 
down at me. At first I feel threatened, because she 
attacked me in the arena. I have to remind myself 
that she did it to save my life. It was part of the rebel 
plot. But still, that doesn't mean she doesn't despise 
me. Maybe her treatment of me was all an act for the 
Capitol? 

"I'm alive," I say rustily. 

"No kidding, brainless." Johanna walks over and 
plunks down on my bed, sending spikes of pain 
shooting across my chest. When she grins at my 
discomfort, I know we're not in for some warm 
reunion scene. "Still a little sore?" With an expert 
hand, she quickly detaches the morphling drip from 
my arm and plugs it into a socket taped into the 
crook of her own. "They started cutting back my 
supply a few days ago. Afraid I'm going to turn into 
one of those freaks from Six. I've had to borrow from 
you when the coast was clear. Didn't think you'd 
mind." 

Mind? How can I mind when she was almost tortured 
to death by Snow after the Quarter Quell? I have no 
right to mind, and she knows it. 

Johanna sighs as the morphling enters her 
bloodstream. "Maybe they were onto something in Six. 
Drug yourself out and paint flowers on your body. Not 
such a bad life. Seemed happier than the rest of us, 
anyway. " 



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In the weeks since I left 13, she's gained some weight 
back. A soft down of hair has sprouted on her shaved 
head, helping to hide some of the scars. But if she's 
siphoning off my morphling, she's struggling. 

"They've got this head doctor who comes around every 
day. Supposed to be helping me recover. Like some 
guy who's spent his life in this rabbit warren's going 
to fix me up. Complete idiot. At least twenty times a 
session he reminds me that I'm totally safe." I manage 
a smile. It's a truly stupid thing to say, especially to a 
victor. As if such a state of being ever existed, 
anywhere, for anyone. "How about you, Mockingjay? 
You feel totally safe?" 

"Oh, yeah. Right up until I got shot," I say. 

"Please. That bullet never even touched you. Cinna 
saw to that," she says. 

I think of the layers of protective armor in my 
Mockingjay outfit. But the pain came from 
somewhere. "Broken ribs?" 

"Not even. Bruised pretty good. The impact ruptured 
your spleen. They couldn't repair it." She gives a 
dismissive wave of her hand. "Don't worry, you don't 
need one. And if you did, they'd find you one, 
wouldn't they? It's everybody's job to keep you alive." 

"Is that why you hate me?" I ask. 

"Partly," she admits. "Jealousy is certainly involved. I 
also think you're a little hard to swallow. With your 
tacky romantic drama and your defender-of-the- 
helpless act. Only it isn't an act, which makes you 
more unbearable. Please feel free to take this 
personally." 



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"You should have been the Mockingjay. No one 
would've had to feed you lines," I say. 

"True. But no one likes me," she tells me. 

"They trusted you, though. To get me out," I remind 
her. "And they're afraid of you." 

"Here, maybe. In the Capitol, you're the one they're 
scared of now." Gale appears in the doorway, and 
Johanna neatly unhooks herself and reattaches me to 
the morphling drip. "Your cousin's not afraid of me," 
she says confidentially. She scoots off my bed and 
crosses to the door, nudging Gale's leg with her hip as 
she passes him. "Are you, gorgeous?" We can hear her 
laughter as she disappears down the hall. 

I raise my eyebrows at him as he takes my hand. 
"Terrified," he mouths. I laugh, but it turns into a 
wince. "Easy." He strokes my face as the pain ebbs. 
"You've got to stop running straight into trouble." 

"I know. But someone blew up a mountain," I answer. 

Instead of pulling back, he leans in closer, searching 
my face. "You think I'm heartless." 

"I know you're not. But I won't tell you it's okay," I 
say. 

Now he draws back, almost impatiently. "Katniss, 
what difference is there, really, between crushing our 
enemy in a mine or blowing them out of the sky with 
one of Beetee's arrows? The result is the same." 

"I don't know. We were under attack in Eight, for one 
thing. The hospital was under attack," I say. 



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"Yes, and those hoverplanes came from District Two," 
he says. "So, by taking them out, we prevented 
further attacks." 

"But that kind of thinking. . .you could turn it into an 
argument for killing anyone at any time. You could 
justify sending kids into the Hunger Games to prevent 
the districts from getting out of line," I say. 

"I don't buy that," he tells me. 

"I do," I reply. "It must be those trips to the arena." 

"Fine. We know how to disagree," he says. "We always 
have. Maybe it's good. Between you and me, we've got 
District Two now." 

"Really?" For a moment a feeling of triumph flares up 
inside me. Then I think about the people on the 
square. "Was there fighting after I was shot?" 

"Not much. The workers from the Nut turned on the 
Capitol soldiers. The rebels just sat by and watched," 
he says. "Actually, the whole country just sat by and 
watched." 

"Well, that's what they do best," I say. 

You'd think that losing a major organ would entitle 
you to lie around a few weeks, but for some reason, 
my doctors want me up and moving almost 
immediately. Even with the morphling, the internal 
pain's severe the first few days, but then it slacks off 
considerably. The soreness from the bruised ribs, 
however, promises to hang on for a while. I begin to 
resent Johanna dipping into my morphling supply, 
but I still let her take whatever she likes. 



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Rumors of my death have been running rampant, so 
they send in the team to film me in my hospital bed. I 
show off my stitches and impressive bruising and 
congratulate the districts on their successful battle 
for unity. Then I warn the Capitol to expect us soon. 

As part of my rehabilitation, I take short walks 
aboveground each day. One afternoon, Plutarch joins 
me and gives me an update on our current situation. 
Now that District 2 has allied with us, the rebels are 
taking a breather from the war to regroup. Fortifying 
supply lines, seeing to the wounded, reorganizing 
their troops. The Capitol, like 13 during the Dark 
Days, finds itself completely cut off from outside help 
as it holds the threat of nuclear attack over its 
enemies. Unlike 13, the Capitol is not in a position to 
reinvent itself and become self-sufficient. 

"Oh, the city might be able to scrape along for a 
while," says Plutarch. "Certainly, there are emergency 
supplies stockpiled. But the significant difference 
between Thirteen and the Capitol are the expectations 
of the populace. Thirteen was used to hardship, 
whereas in the Capitol, all they've known is Panem et 
Circenses." 

"What's that?" I recognize Panem, of course, but the 
rest is nonsense. 

"It's a saying from thousands of years ago, written in 
a language called Latin about a place called Rome," 
he explains. "Panem et Circenses translates into 
'Bread and Circuses.' The writer was saying that in 
return for full bellies and entertainment, his people 
had given up their political responsibilities and 
therefore their power." 

I think about the Capitol. The excess of food. And the 

ultimate entertainment. The Hunger Games. "So 

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that's what the districts are for. To provide the bread 
and circuses." 

"Yes. And as long as that kept rolling in, the Capitol 
could control its little empire. Right now, it can 
provide neither, at least at the standard the people 
are accustomed to," says Plutarch. "We have the food 
and I'm about to orchestrate an entertainment propo 
that's sure to be popular. After all, everybody loves a 
wedding." 

I freeze in my tracks, sick at the idea of what he's 
suggesting. Somehow staging some perverse wedding 
between Peeta and me. I haven't been able to face that 
one-way glass since I've been back and, at my own 
request, only get updates about Peeta' s condition 
from Haymitch. He speaks very little about it. 
Different techniques are being tried. There will never 
truly be a way to cure him. And now they want me to 
marry Peeta for a propo? 

Plutarch rushes to reassure me. "Oh, no, Katniss. Not 
your wedding. Finnick and Annie's. All you need to do 
is show up and pretend to be happy for them." 

"That's one of the few things I won't have to pretend, 
Plutarch," I tell him. 

The next few days bring a flurry of activity as the 
event is planned. The differences between the Capitol 
and 13 are thrown into sharp relief by the event. 
When Coin says "wedding," she means two people 
signing a piece of paper and being assigned a new 
compartment. Plutarch means hundreds of people 
dressed in finery at a three-day celebration. It's 
amusing to watch them haggle over the details. 
Plutarch has to fight for every guest, every musical 
note. After Coin vetoes a dinner, entertainment, and 



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alcohol, Plutarch yells, "What's the point of the propo 
if no one's having any fun!" 

It's hard to put a Gamemaker on a budget. But even a 
quiet celebration causes a stir in 13, where they seem 
to have no holidays at all. When it's announced that 
children are wanted to sing District 4's wedding song, 
practically every kid shows up. There's no shortage of 
volunteers to help make decorations. In the dining 
hall, people chat excitedly about the event. 

Maybe it's more than the festivities. Maybe it's that 
we are all so starved for something good to happen 
that we want to be part of it. It would explain why— 
when Plutarch has a fit over what the bride will wear- 
-I volunteer to take Annie back to my house in 12, 
where Cinna left a variety of evening clothes in a big 
storage closet downstairs. All of the wedding gowns 
he designed for me went back to the Capitol, but 
there are some dresses I wore on the Victory Tour. I'm 
a little leery about being with Annie since all I really 
know about her is that Finnick loves her and 
everybody thinks she's mad. On the hovercraft ride, I 
decide she's less mad than unstable. She laughs at 
odd places in the conversation or drops out of it 
distractedly. Those green eyes fixate on a point with 
such intensity that you find yourself trying to make 
out what she sees in the empty air. Sometimes, for no 
reason, she presses both her hands over her ears as if 
to block out a painful sound. All right, she's strange, 
but if Finnick loves her, that's good enough for me. 

I got permission for my prep team to come along, so 
I'm relieved of having to make any fashion decisions. 
When I open the closet, we all fall silent because 
Cinna's presence is so strong in the flow of the 
fabrics. Then Octavia drops to her knees, rubs the 
hem of a skirt against her cheek, and bursts into 



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tears. "It's been so long," she gasps, "since I've seen 
anything pretty." 



Despite reservations on Coin's side that it's too 
extravagant, and on Plutarch's side that it's too drab, 
the wedding is a smash hit. The three hundred lucky 
guests culled from 13 and the many refugees wear 
their everyday clothes, the decorations are made from 
autumn foliage, the music is provided by a choir of 
children accompanied by the lone fiddler who made it 
out of 12 with his instrument. So it's simple, frugal by 
the Capitol's standards. It doesn't matter because 
nothing can compete with the beauty of the couple. It 
isn't about their borrowed finery— Annie wears a green 
silk dress I wore in 5, Finnick one of Peeta's suits that 
they altered— although the clothes are striking. Who 
can look past the radiant faces of two people for 
whom this day was once a virtual impossibility? 
Dalton, the cattle guy from 10, conducts the 
ceremony, since it's similar to the one used in his 
district. But there are unique touches of District 4. A 
net woven from long grass that covers the couple 
during their vows, the touching of each other's lips 
with salt water, and the ancient wedding song, which 
likens marriage to a sea voyage. 

No, I don't have to pretend to be happy for them. 

After the kiss that seals the union, the cheers, and a 
toast with apple cider, the fiddler strikes up a tune 
that turns every head from 12. We may have been the 
smallest, poorest district in Panem, but we know how 
to dance. Nothing has been officially scheduled at this 
point, but Plutarch, who's calling the propo from the 
control room, must have his fingers crossed. Sure 
enough, Greasy Sae grabs Gale by the hand and pulls 
him into the center of the floor and faces off with him. 
People pour in to join them, forming two long lines. 
And the dancing begins. 



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I'm standing off to the side, clapping to the rhythm, 
when a bony hand pinches me above the elbow. 
Johanna scowls at me. "Are you going to miss the 
chance to let Snow see you dancing?" She's right. 
What could spell victory louder than a happy 
Mockingj ay twirling around to music? I find Prim in 
the crowd. Since winter evenings gave us a lot of time 
to practice, we're actually pretty good partners. I 
brush off her concerns about my ribs, and we take 
our places in the line. It hurts, but the satisfaction of 
having Snow watch me dance with my little sister 
reduces other feelings to dust. 

Dancing transforms us. We teach the steps to the 
District 13 guests. Insist on a special number for the 
bride and groom. Join hands and make a giant, 
spinning circle where people show off their footwork. 
Nothing silly, joyful, or fun has happened in so long. 
This could go on all night if not for the last event 
planned in Plutarch's propo. One I hadn't heard 
about, but then it was meant to be a surprise. 

Four people wheel out a huge wedding cake from a 
side room. Most of the guests back up, making way 
for this rarity, this dazzling creation with blue-green, 
white-tipped icing waves swimming with fish and 
sailboats, seals and sea flowers. But I push my way 
through the crowd to confirm what I knew at first 
sight. As surely as the embroidery stitches in Annie's 
gown were done by Cinna's hand, the frosted flowers 
on the cake were done by Peeta's. 

This may seem like a small thing, but it speaks 
volumes. Haymitch has been keeping a great deal 
from me. The boy I last saw, screaming his head off, 
trying to tear free of his restraints, could never have 
made this. Never have had the focus, kept his hands 
steady, designed something so perfect for Finnick and 



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Annie. As if anticipating my reaction, Haymitch is at 
my side. 

"Let's you and me have a talk," he says. 

Out in the hall, away from the cameras, I ask, "What's 
happening to him?" 

Haymitch shakes his head. "I don't know. None of us 
knows. Sometimes he's almost rational, and then, for 
no reason, he goes off again. Doing the cake was a 
kind of therapy. He's been working on it for days. 
Watching him... he seemed almost like before." 

"So, he's got the run of the place?" I ask. The idea 
makes me nervous on about five different levels. 

"Oh, no. He frosted under heavy guard. He's still 
under lock and key. But I've talked to him," Haymitch 
says. 

"Face-to-face?" I ask. "And he didn't go nuts?" 

"No. Pretty angry with me, but for all the right 
reasons. Not telling him about the rebel plot and 
whatnot." Haymitch pauses a moment, as if deciding 
something. "He says he'd like to see you." 

I'm on a frosting sailboat, tossed around by blue- 
green waves, the deck shifting beneath my feet. My 
palms press into the wall to steady myself. This 
wasn't part of the plan. I wrote Peeta off in 2. Then I 
was to go to the Capitol, kill Snow, and get taken out 
myself. The gunshot was only a temporary setback. 
Never was I supposed to hear the words He says he'd 
like to see you. But now that I have, there's no way to 
refuse. 



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At midnight, I'm standing outside the door to his cell. 
Hospital room. We had to wait for Plutarch to finish 
getting his wedding footage, which, despite the lack of 
what he calls razzle-dazzle, he's pleased with. "The 
best thing about the Capitol basically ignoring Twelve 
all these years is that you people still have a little 
spontaneity. The audience eats that up. Like when 
Peeta announced he was in love with you or you did 
the trick with the berries. Makes for good television." 

I wish I could meet with Peeta privately. But the 
audience of doctors has assembled behind the one- 
way glass, clipboards ready, pens poised. When 
Haymitch gives me the okay in my earpiece, I slowly 
open the door. 

Those blue eyes lock on me instantly. He's got three 
restraints on each arm, and a tube that can dispense 
a knockout drug just in case he loses control. He 
doesn't fight to free himself, though, only observes me 
with the wary look of someone who still hasn't ruled 
out that he's in the presence of a mutt. I walk over 
until I'm standing about a yard from the bed. There's 
nothing to do with my hands, so I cross my arms 
protectively over my ribs before I speak. "Hey." 

"Hey," he responds. It's like his voice, almost his 
voice, except there's something new in it. An edge of 
suspicion and reproach. 

"Haymitch said you wanted to talk to me," I say. 

"Look at you, for starters." It's like he's waiting for me 
to transform into a hybrid drooling wolf right before 
his eyes. He stares so long I find myself casting furtive 
glances at the one-way glass, hoping for some 
direction from Haymitch, but my earpiece stays silent. 
"You're not very big, are you? Or particularly pretty?" 



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I know he's been through hell and back, and yet 
somehow the observation rubs me the wrong way. 
"Well, you've looked better." 

Haymitch's advice to back off gets muffled by Peeta's 
laughter. "And not even remotely nice. To say that to 
me after all I've been through." 

"Yeah. We've all been through a lot. And you're the 
one who was known for being nice. Not me." I'm doing 
everything wrong. I don't know why I feel so defensive. 
He's been tortured! He's been hijacked! What's wrong 
with me? Suddenly, I think I might start screaming at 
him— I'm not even sure about what— so I decide to get 
out of there. "Look, I don't feel so well. Maybe I'll drop 
by tomorrow." 

I've just reached the door when his voice stops me. 
"Katniss. I remember about the bread." 

The bread. Our one moment of real connection before 
the Hunger Games. 

"They showed you the tape of me talking about it," I 
say. 

"No. Is there a tape of you talking about it? Why 
didn't the Capitol use it against me?" he asks. 

"I made it the day you were rescued," I answer. The 
pain in my chest wraps around my ribs like a vise. 
The dancing was a mistake. "So what do you 
remember?" 

"You. In the rain," he says softly. "Digging in our 
trash bins. Burning the bread. My mother hitting me. 
Taking the bread out for the pig but then giving it to 
you instead." 



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"That's it. That's what happened," I say. "The next 
day, after school, I wanted to thank you. But I didn't 
know how." 

"We were outside at the end of the day. I tried to catch 
your eye. You looked away. And then... for some 
reason, I think you picked a dandelion." I nod. He 
does remember. I have never spoken about that 
moment aloud. "I must have loved you a lot." 

"You did." My voice catches and I pretend to cough. 

"And did you love me?" he asks. 

I keep my eyes on the tiled floor. "Everyone says I did. 
Everyone says that's why Snow had you tortured. To 
break me." 

"That's not an answer," he tells me. "I don't know 
what to think when they show me some of the tapes. 
In that first arena, it looked like you tried to kill me 
with those tracker j ackers." 

"I was trying to kill all of you," I say. "You had me 
treed." 

"Later, there's a lot of kissing. Didn't seem very 
genuine on your part. Did you like kissing me?" he 
asks. 

"Sometimes," I admit. "You know people are watching 
us now?" 

"I know. What about Gale?" he continues. 

My anger's returning. I don't care about his recovery— 
this isn't the business of the people behind the glass. 
"He's not a bad kisser either," I say shortly. 



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"And it was okay with both of us? You kissing the 
other?" he asks. 

"No. It wasn't okay with either of you. But I wasn't 
asking your permission," I tell him. 

Peeta laughs again, coldly, dismissively. "Well, you're 
a piece of work, aren't you?" 

Haymitch doesn't protest when I walk out. Down the 
hall. Through the beehive of compartments. Find a 
warm pipe to hide behind in a laundry room. It takes 
a long time before I get to the bottom of why I'm so 
upset. When I do, it's almost too mortifying to admit. 
All those months of taking it for granted that Peeta 
thought I was wonderful are over. Finally, he can see 
me for who I really am. Violent. Distrustful. 
Manipulative. Deadly. 

And I hate him for it. 



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Blindsided. That's how I feel when Haymitch tells me 
in the hospital. I fly down the steps to Command, 
mind racing a mile a minute, and burst right into a 
war meeting. 

"What do you mean, I'm not going to the Capitol? I 
have to go! I'm the Mockingjay!" I say. 

Coin barely looks up from her screen. "And as the 
Mockingjay, your primary goal of unifying the 
districts against the Capitol has been achieved. Don't 
worry— if it goes well, we'll fly you in for the 
surrender." 

The surrender? 

"That'll be too late! I'll miss all the fighting. You need 
me— I'm the best shot you've got!" I shout. I don't 
usually brag about this, but it's got to be at least 
close to true. "Gale's going." 

"Gale has shown up for training every day unless 
occupied with other approved duties. We feel 
confident he can manage himself in the field," says 
Coin. "How many training sessions do you estimate 
you've attended?" 

None. That's how many. "Well, sometimes I was 
hunting. And... I trained with Beetee down in Special 
Weaponry." 

"It's not the same, Katniss," says Boggs. "We all know 
you're smart and brave and a good shot. But we need 
soldiers in the field. You don't know the first thing 



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about executing orders, and you're not exactly at your 
physical peak." 



"That didn't bother you when I was in Eight. Or Two, 
for that matter," I counter. 

"You weren't originally authorized for combat in either 
case," says Plutarch, shooting me a look that signals 
I'm about to reveal too much. 

No, the bomber battle in 8 and my intervention in 2 
were spontaneous, rash, and definitely unauthorized. 

"And both resulted in your injury," Boggs reminds 
me. Suddenly, I see myself through his eyes. A 
smallish seventeen-year-old girl who can't quite catch 
her breath since her ribs haven't fully healed. 
Disheveled. Undisciplined. Recuperating. Not a 
soldier, but someone who needs to be looked after. 

"But I have to go," I say. 

"Why?" asks Coin. 

I can't very well say it's so I can carry out my own 
personal vendetta against Snow. Or that the idea of 
remaining here in 13 with the latest version of Peeta 
while Gale goes off to fight is unbearable. But I have 
no shortage of reasons to want to fight in the Capitol. 
"Because of Twelve. Because they destroyed my 
district." 

The president thinks about this a moment. Considers 
me. "Well, you have three weeks. It's not long, but you 
can begin training. If the Assignment Board deems 
you fit, possibly your case will be reviewed." 

That's it. That's the most I can hope for. I guess it's 
my own fault. I did blow off my schedule every single 



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day unless something suited me. It didn't seem like 
much of a priority, jogging around a field with a gun 
with so many other things going on. And now I'm 
paying for my negligence. 

Back in the hospital, I find Johanna in the same 
circumstance and spitting mad. I tell her about what 
Coin said. "Maybe you can train, too." 

"Fine. I'll train. But I'm going to the stinking Capitol if 
I have to kill a crew and fly there myself," says 
Johanna. 

"Probably best not to bring that up in training," I say. 
"But it's nice to know I'll have a ride." 

Johanna grins, and I feel a slight but significant shift 
in our relationship. I don't know that we're actually 
friends, but possibly the word allies would be 
accurate. That's good. I'm going to need an ally. 

The next morning, when we report for training at 
7:30, reality slaps me in the face. We've been funneled 
into a class of relative beginners, fourteen- or fifteen- 
year-olds, which seems a little insulting until it's 
obvious that they're in far better condition than we 
are. Gale and the other people already chosen to go to 
the Capitol are in a different, accelerated phase of 
training. After we stretch— which hurts— there's a 
couple of hours of strengthening exercises— which 
hurt— and a five-mile run— which kills. Even with 
Johanna's motivational insults driving me on, I have 
to drop out after a mile. 

"It's my ribs," I explain to the trainer, a no-nonsense 
middle-aged woman we're supposed to address as 
Soldier York. "They're still bruised." 



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"Well, I'll tell you, Soldier Everdeen, those are going to 
take at least another month to heal up on their own," 
she says. 



I shake my head. "I don't have a month." 

She looks me up and down. "The doctors haven't 
offered you any treatment?" 

"Is there a treatment?" I ask. "They said they had to 
mend naturally." 

"That's what they say. But they could speed up the 
process if I recommend it. I warn you, though, it isn't 
any fun," she tells me. 

"Please. I've got to get to the Capitol," I say. 

Soldier York doesn't question this. She scribbles 
something on a pad and sends me directly back to the 
hospital. I hesitate. I don't want to miss any more 
training. "I'll be back for the afternoon session," I 
promise. She just purses her lips. 

Twenty-four needle jabs to my rib cage later, I'm 
flattened out on my hospital bed, gritting my teeth to 
keep from begging them to bring back my morphling 
drip. It's been by my bed so I can take a hit as 
needed. I haven't used it lately, but I kept it for 
Johanna's sake. Today they tested my blood to make 
sure it was clean of the painkiller, as the mixture of 
the two drugs— the morphling and whatever's set my 
ribs on fire— has dangerous side effects. They made it 
clear I would have a difficult couple of days. But I told 
them to go ahead. 

It's a bad night in our room. Sleep's out of the 
question. I think I can actually smell the ring of flesh 
around my chest burning, and Johanna's fighting off 



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withdrawal symptoms. Early on, when I apologize 
about cutting off her morphling supply, she waves it 
off, saying it had to happen anyway. But by three in 
the morning, I'm the target of every colorful bit of 
profanity District 7 has to offer. At dawn, she drags 
me out of bed, determined to get to training. 

"I don't think I can do it," I confess. 

"You can do it. We both can. We're victors, remember? 
We're the ones who can survive anything they throw 
at us," she snarls at me. She's a sick greenish color, 
shaking like a leaf. I get dressed. 

We must be victors to make it through the morning. I 
think I'm going to lose Johanna when we realize it's 
pouring outside. Her face turns ashen and she seems 
to have ceased breathing. 

"It's just water. It won't kill us," I say. She clenches 
her jaw and stomps out into the mud. Rain drenches 
us as we work our bodies and then slog around the 
running course. I bail after a mile again, and I have to 
resist the temptation to take off my shirt so the cold 
water can sizzle off my ribs. I force down my field 
lunch of soggy fish and beet stew. Johanna gets 
halfway through her bowl before it comes back up. In 
the afternoon, we learn to assemble our guns. I 
manage it, but Johanna can't hold her hands steady 
enough to fit the parts together. When York's back is 
turned, I help her out. Even though the rain 
continues, the afternoon's an improvement because 
we're on the shooting range. At last, something I'm 
good at. It takes some adjusting from a bow to a gun, 
but by the end of the day, I've got the best score in my 
class. 



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We're just inside the hospital doors when Johanna 
declares, "This has to stop. Us living in the hospital. 
Everyone views us as patients." 



It's not a problem for me. I can move into our family 
compartment, but Johanna's never been assigned 
one. When she tries to get discharged from the 
hospital, they won't agree to let her live alone, even if 
she comes in for daily talks with the head doctor. I 
think they may have put two and two together about 
the morphling and this only adds to their view that 
she's unstable. "She won't be alone. I'm going to room 
with her," I announce. There's some dissent, but 
Haymitch takes our part, and by bedtime, we have a 
compartment across from Prim and my mother, who 
agrees to keep an eye on us. 

After I take a shower, and Johanna sort of wipes 
herself down with a damp cloth, she makes a cursory 
inspection of the place. When she opens the drawer 
that holds my few possessions, she shuts it quickly. 
"Sorry." 

I think how there's nothing in Johanna's drawer but 
her government-issued clothes. That she doesn't have 
one thing in the world to call her own. "It's okay. You 
can look at my stuff if you want." 

Johanna unlatches my locket, studying the pictures 
of Gale, Prim, and my mother. She opens the silver 
parachute and pulls out the spile and slips it onto her 
pinkie. "Makes me thirsty just looking at it." Then she 
finds the pearl Peeta gave me. "Is this—?" 

"Yeah," I say. "Made it through somehow." I don't 
want to talk about Peeta. One of the best things about 
training is, it keeps me from thinking of him. 

"Haymitch says he's getting better," she says. 



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"Maybe. But he's changed," I say. 

"So have you. So have I. And Finnick and Haymitch 
and Beetee. Don't get me started on Annie Cresta. The 
arena messed us all up pretty good, don't you think? 
Or do you still feel like the girl who volunteered for 
your sister?" she asks me. 

"No," I answer. 

"That's the one thing I think my head doctor might be 
right about. There's no going back. So we might as 
well get on with things." She neatly returns my 
keepsakes to the drawer and climbs into the bed 
across from me just as the lights go out. "You're not 
afraid I'll kill you tonight?" 

"Like I couldn't take you," I answer. Then we laugh, 
since both our bodies are so wrecked, it will be a 
miracle if we can get up the next day. But we do. 
Each morning, we do. And by the end of the week, my 
ribs feel almost like new, and Johanna can assemble 
her rifle without help. 

Soldier York gives the pair of us an approving nod as 
we knock off for the day. "Fine job, Soldiers." 

When we move out of hearing, Johanna mutters, "I 
think winning the Games was easier." But the look on 
her face says she's pleased. 

In fact, we're almost in good spirits when we go to the 
dining hall, where Gale's waiting to eat with me. 
Receiving a giant serving of beef stew doesn't hurt my 
mood either. "First shipments of food arrived this 
morning," Greasy Sae tells me. "That's real beef, from 
District Ten. Not any of your wild dog." 



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"Don't remember you turning it down," Gale tosses 
back. 



We join a group that includes Delly, Annie, and 
Finnick. It's something to see Finnick's 
transformation since his marriage. His earlier 
incarnations— the decadent Capitol heartthrob I met 
before the Quell, the enigmatic ally in the arena, the 
broken young man who tried to help me hold it 
together— these have been replaced by someone who 
radiates life. Finnick's real charms of self-effacing 
humor and an easygoing nature are on display for the 
first time. He never lets go of Annie's hand. Not when 
they walk, not when they eat. I doubt he ever plans 
to. She's lost in some daze of happiness. There are 
still moments when you can tell something slips in 
her brain and another world blinds her to us. But a 
few words from Finnick call her back. 

Delly, who I've known since I was little but never gave 
much thought to, has grown in my estimation. She 
was told what Peeta said to me that night after the 
wedding, but she's not a gossip. Haymitch says she's 
the best defender I have when Peeta goes off on some 
kind of tear about me. Always taking my side, 
blaming his negative perceptions on the Capitol's 
torture. She has more influence on him than any of 
the others do, because he really does know her. 
Anyway, even if she's sugarcoating my good points, I 
appreciate it. Frankly, I could use a little 
sugarcoating. 

I'm starving and the stew is so delicious— beef, 
potatoes, turnips, and onions in a thick gravy— that I 
have to force myself to slow down. All around the 
dining hall, you can feel the rejuvenating effect that a 
good meal can bring on. The way it can make people 
kinder, funnier, more optimistic, and remind them it's 
not a mistake to go on living. It's better than any 



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medicine. So I try to make it last and join in the 
conversation. Sop up the gravy on my bread and 
nibble on it as I listen to Finnick telling some 
ridiculous story about a sea turtle swimming off with 
his hat. Laugh before I realize he's standing there. 
Directly across the table, behind the empty seat next 
to Johanna. Watching me. I choke momentarily as the 
gravy bread sticks in my throat. 

"Peeta!" says Delly. "It's so nice to see you out... and 
about." 

Two large guards stand behind him. He holds his tray 
awkwardly, balanced on his fingertips since his wrists 
are shackled with a short chain between them. 

"What's with the fancy bracelets?" asks Johanna. 

"I'm not quite trustworthy yet," says Peeta. "I can't 
even sit here without your permission." He indicates 
the guards with his head. 

"Sure he can sit here. We're old friends," says 
Johanna, patting the space beside her. The guards 
nod and Peeta takes a seat. "Peeta and I had 
adjoining cells in the Capitol. We're very familiar with 
each other's screams." 

Annie, who's on Johanna's other side, does that thing 
where she covers her ears and exits reality. Finnick 
shoots Johanna an angry look as his arm encircles 
Annie. 

"What? My head doctor says I'm not supposed to 
censor my thoughts. It's part of my therapy," replies 
Johanna. 

The life has gone out of our little party. Finnick 
murmurs things to Annie until she slowly removes 
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her hands. Then there's a long silence while people 
pretend to eat. 

"Annie," says Delly brightly, "did you know it was 
Peeta who decorated your wedding cake? Back home, 
his family ran the bakery and he did all the icing." 

Annie cautiously looks across Johanna. "Thank you, 
Peeta. It was beautiful." 

"My pleasure, Annie," says Peeta, and I hear that old 
note of gentleness in his voice that I thought was gone 
forever. Not that it's directed at me. But still. 

"If we're going to fit in that walk, we better go," 
Finnick tells her. He arranges both of their trays so 
he can carry them in one hand while holding tightly 
to her with the other. "Good seeing you, Peeta." 

"You be nice to her, Finnick. Or I might try and take 
her away from you." It could be a joke, if the tone 
wasn't so cold. Everything it conveys is wrong. The 
open distrust of Finnick, the implication that Peeta 
has his eye on Annie, that Annie could desert 
Finnick, that I do not even exist. 

"Oh, Peeta," says Finnick lightly. "Don't make me 
sorry I restarted your heart." He leads Annie away 
after giving me a concerned glance. 

When they're gone, Delly says in a reproachful voice, 
"He did save your life, Peeta. More than once." 

"For her." He gives me a brief nod. "For the rebellion. 
Not for me. I don't owe him anything." 

I shouldn't rise to the bait, but I do. "Maybe not. But 
Mags is dead and you're still here. That should count 
for something." 



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"Yeah, a lot of things should count for something that 
don't seem to, Katniss. I've got some memories I can't 
make sense of, and I don't think the Capitol touched 
them. A lot of nights on the train, for instance," he 
says. 

Again the implications. That more happened on the 
train than did. That what did happen— those nights I 
only kept my sanity because his arms were around 
me— no longer matters. Everything a lie, everything a 
way of misusing him. 

Peeta makes a little gesture with his spoon, 
connecting Gale and me. "So, are you two officially a 
couple now, or are they still dragging out the star- 
crossed lover thing?" 

"Still dragging," says Johanna. 

Spasms cause Peeta's hands to tighten into fists, then 
splay out in a bizarre fashion. Is it all he can do to 
keep them from my neck? I can feel the tension in 
Gale's muscles next to me, fear an altercation. But 
Gale simply says, "I wouldn't have believed it if I 
hadn't seen it myself." 

"What's that?" asks Peeta. 

"You," Gale answers. 

"You'll have to be a little more specific," says Peeta. 
"What about me?" 

"That they've replaced you with the evil-mutt version 
of yourself," says Johanna. 

Gale finishes his milk. "You done?" he asks me. I rise 
and we cross to drop off our trays. At the door, an old 
man stops me because I'm still clutching the rest of 
233 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



my gravy bread in my hand. Something in my 
expression, or maybe the fact that I've made no 
attempt to conceal it, makes him go easy on me. He 
lets me stuff the bread in my mouth and move on. 
Gale and I are almost to my compartment when he 
speaks again. "I didn't expect that." 

"I told you he hated me," I say. 

"It's the way he hates you. It's so... familiar. I used to 
feel like that," he admits. "When I'd watch you kissing 
him on the screen. Only I knew I wasn't being entirely 
fair. He can't see that." 

We reach my door. "Maybe he just sees me as I really 
am. I have to get some sleep." 

Gale catches my arm before I can disappear. "So 
that's what you're thinking now?" I shrug. "Katniss, 
as your oldest friend, believe me when I say he's not 
seeing you as you really are." He kisses my cheek and 
goes. 

I sit on my bed, trying to stuff information from my 
Military Tactics books into my head while memories 
of my nights with Peeta on the train distract me. After 
about twenty minutes, Johanna comes in and throws 
herself across the foot of my bed. "You missed the 
best part. Delly lost her temper at Peeta over how he 
treated you. She got very squeaky. It was like 
someone stabbing a mouse with a fork repeatedly. 
The whole dining hall was riveted." 

"What'd Peeta do?" I ask. 

"He started arguing with himself like he was two 
people. The guards had to take him away. On the 
good side, no one seemed to notice I finished his 
stew." Johanna rubs her hand over her protruding 



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belly. I look at the layer of grime under her 
fingernails. Wonder if the people in 7 ever bathe. 

We spend a couple of hours quizzing each other on 
military terms. I visit my mother and Prim for a while. 
When I'm back in my compartment, showered, staring 
into the darkness, I finally ask, "Johanna, could you 
really hear him screaming?" 

"That was part of it," she says. "Like the jabberjays in 
the arena. Only it was real. And it didn't stop after an 
hour. Tick, tock." 

"Tick, tock," I whisper back. 

Roses. Wolf mutts. Tributes. Frosted dolphins. 
Friends. Mockingjays. Stylists. Me. 

Everything screams in my dreams tonight. 



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I throw myself into training with a vengeance. Eat, 
live, and breathe the workouts, drills, weapons 
practice, lectures on tactics. A handful of us are 
moved into an additional class that gives me hope I 
may be a contender for the actual war. The soldiers 
simply call it the Block, but the tattoo on my arm lists 
it as S.S.C., short for Simulated Street Combat. Deep 
in 13, they've built an artificial Capitol city block. The 
instructor breaks us into squads of eight and we 
attempt to carry out missions— gaining a position, 
destroying a target, searching a home— as if we were 
really fighting our way through the Capitol. The 
thing's rigged so that everything that can go wrong for 
you does. A false step triggers a land mine, a sniper 
appears on a rooftop, your gun jams, a crying child 
leads you into an ambush, your squadron leader— 
who's just a voice on the program— gets hit by a 
mortar and you have to figure out what to do without 
orders. Part of you knows it's fake and that they're 
not going to kill you. If you set off a land mine, you 
hear the explosion and have to pretend to fall over 
dead. But in other ways, it feels pretty real in there— 
the enemy soldiers dressed in Peacekeepers' 
uniforms, the confusion of a smoke bomb. They even 
gas us. Johanna and I are the only ones who get our 
masks on in time. The rest of our squad gets knocked 
out for ten minutes. And the supposedly harmless gas 
I took a few lungfuls of gives me a wicked headache 
for the rest of the day. 

Cressida and her crew tape Johanna and me on the 
firing range. I know Gale and Finnick are being filmed 
as well. It's part of a new propos series to show the 
rebels preparing for the Capitol invasion. On the 
whole, things are going pretty well. 

236 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



Then Peeta starts showing up for our morning 
workouts. The manacles are off, but he's still 
constantly accompanied by a pair of guards. After 
lunch, I see him across the field, drilling with a group 
of beginners. I don't know what they're thinking. If a 
spat with Delly can reduce him to arguing with 
himself, he's got no business learning how to 
assemble a gun. 

When I confront Plutarch, he assures me that it's all 
for the camera. They've got footage of Annie getting 
married and Johanna hitting targets, but all of Panem 
is wondering about Peeta. They need to see he's 
fighting for the rebels, not for Snow. And maybe if 
they could just get a couple of shots of the two of us, 
not kissing necessarily, just looking happy to be back 
together— 

I walk away from the conversation right then. That is 
not going to happen. 

In my rare moments of downtime, I anxiously watch 
the preparations for the invasions. See equipment 
and provisions readied, divisions assembled. You can 
tell when someone's received orders because they're 
given a very short haircut, the mark of a person going 
into battle. There is much talk of the opening 
offensive, which will be to secure the train tunnels 
that feed up into the Capitol. 

Just a few days before the first troops are to move 
out, York unexpectedly tells Johanna and me she's 
recommended us for the exam, and we're to report 
immediately. There are four parts: an obstacle course 
that assesses your physical condition, a written 
tactics exam, a test of weapons proficiency, and a 
simulated combat situation in the Block. I don't even 
have time to get nervous for the first three and do 
well, but there's a backlog at the Block. Some kind of 
237 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



technical bug they're working out. A group of us 
exchanges information. This much seems true. You 
go through alone. There's no predicting what 
situation you'll be thrown into. One boy says, under 
his breath, that he's heard it's designed to target each 
individual's weaknesses. 

My weaknesses? That's a door I don't even want to 
open. But I find a quiet spot and try to assess what 
they might be. The length of the list depresses me. 
Lack of physical brute force. A bare minimum of 
training. And somehow my stand-out status as the 
Mockingjay doesn't seem to be an advantage in a 
situation where they're trying to get us to blend into a 
pack. They could nail me to the wall on any number 
of things. 

Johanna's called three ahead of me, and I give her a 
nod of encouragement. I wish I had been at the top of 
the list because now I'm really overthinking the whole 
thing. By the time my name's called, I don't know 
what my strategy should be. Fortunately, once I'm in 
the Block, a certain amount of training does kick in. 
It's an ambush situation. Peacekeepers appear almost 
instantly and I have to make my way to a rendezvous 
point to meet up with my scattered squad. I slowly 
navigate the street, taking out Peacekeepers as I go. 
Two on the rooftop to my left, another in the doorway 
up ahead. It's challenging, but not as hard as I was 
expecting. There's a nagging feeling that if it's too 
simple, I must be missing the point. I'm within a 
couple of buildings from my goal when things begin to 
heat up. A half dozen Peacekeepers come charging 
around the corner. They will outgun me, but I notice 
something. A drum of gasoline lying carelessly in the 
gutter. This is it. My test. To perceive that blowing up 
the drum will be the only way to achieve my mission. 
Just as I step out to do it, my squadron leader, who's 
been fairly useless up to this point, quietly orders me 
238 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



to hit the ground. Every instinct I have screams for 
me to ignore the voice, to pull the trigger, to blow the 
Peacekeepers sky-high. And suddenly, I realize what 
the military will think my biggest weakness is. From 
my first moment in the Games, when I ran for that 
orange backpack, to the fire fight in 8, to my impulsive 
race across the square in 2. I cannot take orders. 

I smack into the ground so hard and fast, I'll be 
picking gravel out of my chin for a week. Someone 
else blows the gas tank. The Peacekeepers die. I make 
my rendezvous point. When I exit the Block on the far 
side, a soldier congratulates me, stamps my hand 
with squad number 451, and tells me to report to 
Command. Almost giddy with success, I run through 
the halls, skidding around corners, bounding down 
the steps because the elevator's too slow. I bang into 
the room before the oddity of the situation dawns on 
me. I shouldn't be in Command; I should be getting 
my hair buzzed. The people around the table aren't 
freshly minted soldiers but the ones calling the shots. 

Boggs smiles and shakes his head when he sees me. 
"Let's see it." Unsure now, I hold out my stamped 
hand. "You're with me. It's a special unit of 
sharpshooters. Join your squad." He nods over at a 
group lining the wall. Gale. Finnick. Five others I 
don't know. My squad. I'm not only in, I get to work 
under Boggs. With my friends. I force myself to take 
calm, soldierly steps to join them, instead of jumping 
up and down. 

We must be important, too, because we're in 
Command, and it has nothing to do with a certain 
Mockingjay. Plutarch stands over a wide, flat panel in 
the center of the table. He's explaining something 
about the nature of what we will encounter in the 
Capitol. I'm thinking this is a terrible presentation— 
because even on tiptoe I can't see what's on the 
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panel— until he hits a button. A holographic image of 
a block of the Capitol projects into the air. 



"This, for example, is the area surrounding one of the 
Peacekeepers' barracks. Not unimportant, but not the 
most crucial of targets, and yet look." Plutarch enters 
some sort of code on a keyboard, and lights begin to 
flash. They're in an assortment of colors and blink at 
different speeds. "Each light is called a pod. It 
represents a different obstacle, the nature of which 
could be anything from a bomb to a band of mutts. 
Make no mistake, whatever it contains is designed to 
either trap or kill you. Some have been in place since 
the Dark Days, others developed over the years. To be 
honest, I created a fair number myself. This program, 
which one of our people absconded with when we left 
the Capitol, is our most recent information. They 
don't know we have it. But even so, it's likely that new 
pods have been activated in the last few months. This 
is what you will face." 

I'm unaware that my feet are moving to the table until 
I'm inches from the holograph. My hand reaches in 
and cups a rapidly blinking green light. 

Someone joins me, his body tense. Finnick, of course. 
Because only a victor would see what I see so 
immediately. The arena. Laced with pods controlled 
by Gamemakers. Finnick' s fingers caress a steady red 
glow over a doorway. "Ladies and gentlemen..." 

His voice is quiet, but mine rings through the room. 
"Let the Seventy-sixth Hunger Games begin!" 

I laugh. Quickly. Before anyone has time to register 
what lies beneath the words I have just uttered. 
Before eyebrows are raised, objections are uttered, 
two and two are put together, and the solution is that 
I should be kept as far away from the Capitol as 



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possible. Because an angry, independently thinking 
victor with a layer of psychological scar tissue too 
thick to penetrate is maybe the last person you want 
on your squad. 

"I don't even know why you bothered to put Finnick 
and me through training, Plutarch," I say. 

"Yeah, we're already the two best-equipped soldiers 
you have," Finnick adds cockily. 

"Do not think that fact escapes me," he says with an 
impatient wave. "Now back in line, Soldiers Odair and 
Everdeen. I have a presentation to finish." 

We retreat to our places, ignoring the questioning 
looks thrown our way. I adopt an attitude of extreme 
concentration as Plutarch continues, nodding my 
head here and there, shifting my position to get a 
better view, all the while telling myself to hang on 
until I can get to the woods and scream. Or curse. Or 
cry. Or maybe all three at once. 

If this was a test, Finnick and I both pass it. When 
Plutarch finishes and the meeting's adjourned, I have 
a bad moment when I learn there's a special order for 
me. But it's merely that I skip the military haircut 
because they would like the Mockingjay to look as 
much like the girl in the arena as possible at the 
anticipated surrender. For the cameras, you know. I 
shrug to communicate that my hair length's a matter 
of complete indifference to me. They dismiss me 
without further comment. 

Finnick and I gravitate toward each other in the 
hallway. "What will I tell Annie?" he says under his 
breath. 



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"Nothing," I answer. "That's what my mother and 
sister will be hearing from me." Bad enough that we 
know we're heading back into a fully equipped arena. 
No use dropping it on our loved ones. 

"If she sees that holograph—" he begins. 

"She won't. It's classified information. It must be," I 
say. "Anyway, it's not like an actual Games. Any 
number of people will survive. We're just overreacting 
because— well, you know why. You still want to go, 
don't you?" 

"Of course. I want to destroy Snow as much as you 
do," he says. 

"It won't be like the others," I say firmly, trying to 
convince myself as well. Then the real beauty of the 
situation dawns on me. "This time Snow will be a 
player, too." 

Before we can continue, Haymitch appears. He wasn't 
at the meeting, isn't thinking of arenas but something 
else. "Johanna's back in the hospital." 

I assumed Johanna was fine, had passed her exam, 
but simply wasn't assigned to a sharpshooters' unit. 
She's wicked throwing an ax but about average with a 
gun. "Is she hurt? What happened?" 

"It was while she was on the Block. They try to ferret 
out a soldier's potential weaknesses. So they flooded 
the street," says Haymitch. 

This doesn't help. Johanna can swim. At least, I seem 
to remember her swimming around some in the 
Quarter Quell. Not like Finnick, of course, but none of 
us are like Finnick. "So?" 



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"That's how they tortured her in the Capitol. Soaked 
her and then used electric shocks," says Haymitch. 
"In the Block she had some kind of flashback. 
Panicked, didn't know where she was. She's back 
under sedation." Finnick and I just stand there, as if 
we've lost the ability to respond. I think of the way 
Johanna never showers. How she forced herself into 
the rain like it was acid that day. I had attributed her 
misery to the morphling withdrawal. 

"You two should go see her. You're as close to friends 
as she's got," says Haymitch. 

That makes the whole thing worse. I don't really know 
what's between Johanna and Finnick. But I hardly 
know her. No family. No friends. Not so much as a 
token from 7 to set beside her regulation clothes in 
her anonymous drawer. Nothing. 

"I better go tell Plutarch. He won't be happy," 
Haymitch continues. "He wants as many victors as 
possible for the cameras to follow in the Capitol. 
Thinks it makes for better television." 

"Are you and Beetee going?" I ask. 

"As many young and attractive victors as possible," 
Haymitch corrects himself. "So, no. We'll be here." 

Finnick goes directly down to see Johanna, but I 
linger outside a few minutes until Boggs comes out. 
He's my commander now, so I guess he's the one to 
ask for any special favors. When I tell him what I 
want to do, he writes me a pass so that I can go to the 
woods during Reflection, provided I stay within sight 
of the guards. I run to my compartment, thinking to 
use the parachute, but it's so full of ugly memories. 
Instead, I go across the hall and take one of the white 



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cotton bandages I brought from 12. Square. Sturdy. 
Just the thing. 

In the woods, I find a pine tree and strip handfuls of 
fragrant needles from the boughs. After making a 
neat pile in the middle of the bandage, I gather up the 
sides, give them a twist, and tie them tightly with a 
length of vine, making an apple-sized bundle. 

At the hospital room door, I watch Johanna for a 
moment, realize that most of her ferocity is in her 
abrasive attitude. Stripped of that, as she is now, 
there's only a slight young woman, her wide-set eyes 
fighting to stay awake against the power of the drugs. 
Terrified of what sleep will bring. I cross to her and 
hold out the bundle. 

"What's that?" she says hoarsely. Damp edges of her 
hair form little spikes over her forehead. 

"I made it for you. Something to put in your drawer." I 
place it in her hands. "Smell it." 

She lifts the bundle to her nose and takes a tentative 
sniff. "Smells like home." Tears flood her eyes. 

"That's what I was hoping. You being from Seven and 
all," I say. "Remember when we met? You were a tree. 
Well, briefly." 

Suddenly, she has my wrist in an iron grip. "You have 
to kill him, Katniss." 

"Don't worry." I resist the temptation to wrench my 
arm free. 

"Swear it. On something you care about," she hisses. 



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"I swear it. On my life." But she doesn't let go of my 
arm. 



"On your family's life," she insists. 

"On my family's life," I repeat. I guess my concern for 
my own survival isn't compelling enough. She lets go 
and I rub my wrist. "Why do you think I'm going, 
anyway, brainless?" 

That makes her smile a little. "I just needed to hear 
it." She presses the bundle of pine needles to her nose 
and closes her eyes. 

The remaining days go by in a whirl. After a brief 
workout each morning, my squad's on the shooting 
range full-time in training. I practice mostly with a 
gun, but they reserve an hour a day for specialty 
weapons, which means I get to use my Mockingjay 
bow, Gale his heavy militarized one. The trident 
Beetee designed for Finnick has a lot of special 
features, but the most remarkable is that he can 
throw it, press a button on a metal cuff on his wrist, 
and return it to his hand without chasing it down. 

Sometimes we shoot at Peacekeeper dummies to 
become familiar with the weaknesses in their 
protective gear. The chinks in the armor, so to speak. 
If you hit flesh, you're rewarded with a burst of fake 
blood. Our dummies are soaked in red. 

It's reassuring to see just how high the overall level of 
accuracy is in our group. Along with Finnick and 
Gale, the squad includes five soldiers from 13. 
Jackson, a middle-aged woman who's Boggs's second 
in command, looks kind of sluggish but can hit things 
the rest of us can't even see without a scope. 
Farsighted, she says. There's a pair of sisters in their 
twenties named Leeg— we call them Leeg 1 and Leeg 2 



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for clarity— who are so similar in uniform, I can't tell 
them apart until I notice Leeg 1 has weird yellow 
flecks in her eyes. Two older guys, Mitchell and 
Homes, never say much but can shoot the dust off 
your boots at fifty yards. I see other squads that are 
also quite good, but I don't fully understand our 
status until the morning Plutarch joins us. 

"Squad Four- Five -One, you have been selected for a 
special mission," he begins. I bite the inside of my lip, 
hoping against hope that it's to assassinate Snow. 
"We have numerous sharpshooters, but rather a 
dearth of camera crews. Therefore, we've handpicked 
the eight of you to be what we call our 'Star Squad.' 
You will be the on-screen faces of the invasion." 

Disappointment, shock, then anger run through the 
group. "What you're saying is, we won't be in actual 
combat," snaps Gale. 

"You will be in combat, but perhaps not always on the 
front line. If one can even isolate a front line in this 
type of war," says Plutarch. 

"None of us wants that." Finnick's remark is followed 
by a general rumble of assent, but I stay silent. "We're 
going to fight." 

"You're going to be as useful to the war effort as 
possible," Plutarch says. "And it's been decided that 
you are of most value on television. Just look at the 
effect Katniss had running around in that Mockingjay 
suit. Turned the whole rebellion around. Do you 
notice how she's the only one not complaining? It's 
because she understands the power of that screen." 

Actually, Katniss isn't complaining because she has 
no intention of staying with the "Star Squad," but she 
recognizes the necessity of getting to the Capitol 
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before carrying out any plan. Still, to be too compliant 
may arouse suspicion as well. 

"But it's not all pretend, is it?" I ask. "That'd be a 
waste of talent." 

"Don't worry," Plutarch tells me. "You'll have plenty of 
real targets to hit. But don't get blown up. I've got 
enough on my plate without having to replace you. 
Now get to the Capitol and put on a good show." 

The morning we ship out, I say good-bye to my family. 
I haven't told them how much the Capitol's defenses 
mirror the weapons in the arena, but my going off to 
war is awful enough on its own. My mother holds me 
tightly for a long time. I feel tears on her cheek, 
something she suppressed when I was slated for the 
Games. "Don't worry. I'll be perfectly safe. I'm not 
even a real soldier. Just one of Plutarch's televised 
puppets," I reassure her. 

Prim walks me as far as the hospital doors. "How do 
you feel?" 

"Better, knowing you're somewhere Snow can't reach 
you," I say. 

"Next time we see each other, we'll be free of him," 
says Prim firmly. Then she throws her arms around 
my neck. "Be careful." 

I consider saying a final good-bye to Peeta, decide it 
would only be bad for both of us. But I do slip the 
pearl into the pocket of my uniform. A token of the 
boy with the bread. 

A hovercraft takes us to, of all places, 12, where a 
makeshift transportation area has been set up 
outside the fire zone. No luxury trains this time, but a 



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cargo car packed to the limit with soldiers in their 
dark gray uniforms, sleeping with their heads on their 
packs. After a couple of days' travel, we disembark 
inside one of the mountain tunnels leading to the 
Capitol, and make the rest of the six-hour trek on 
foot, taking care to step only on a glowing green paint 
line that marks safe passage to the air above. 

We come out in the rebel encampment, a ten-block 
stretch outside the train station where Peeta and I 
made our previous arrivals. It's already crawling with 
soldiers. Squad 451 is assigned a spot to pitch its 
tents. This area has been secured for over a week. 
Rebels pushed out the Peacekeepers, losing hundreds 
of lives in the process. The Capitol forces fell back 
and have regrouped farther into the city. Between us 
lie the booby-trapped streets, empty and inviting. 
Each one will need to be swept of pods before we can 
advance. 

Mitchell asks about hoverplane bombings— we do feel 
very naked pitched out in the open— but Boggs says 
it's not an issue. Most of the Capitol's air fleet was 
destroyed in 2 or during the invasion. If it has any 
craft left, it's holding on to them. Probably so Snow 
and his inner circle can make a last-minute escape to 
some presidential bunker somewhere if needed. Our 
own hoverplanes were grounded after the Capitol's 
antiaircraft missiles decimated the first few waves. 
This war will be battled out on the streets with, 
hopefully, only superficial damage to the 
infrastructure and a minimum of human casualties. 
The rebels want the Capitol, just as the Capitol 
wanted 13. 

After three days, much of Squad 451 risks deserting 
out of boredom. Cressida and her team take shots of 
us firing. They tell us we're part of the disinformation 
team. If the rebels only shoot Plutarch's pods, it will 
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take the Capitol about two minutes to realize we have 
the holograph. So there's a lot of time spent 
shattering things that don't matter, to throw them off 
the scent. Mostly we just add to the piles of rainbow 
glass that's been blown off the exteriors of the candy- 
colored buildings. I suspect they are intercutting this 
footage with the destruction of significant Capitol 
targets. Once in a while it seems a real sharpshooter's 
services are needed. Eight hands go up, but Gale, 
Finnick, and I are never chosen. 

"It's your own fault for being so camera-ready," I tell 
Gale. If looks could kill. 

I don't think they quite know what to do with the 
three of us, particularly me. I have my Mockingjay 
outfit with me, but I've only been taped in my 
uniform. Sometimes I use a gun, sometimes they ask 
me to shoot with my bow and arrows. It's as if they 
don't want to entirely lose the Mockingjay, but they 
want to downgrade my role to foot soldier. Since I 
don't care, it's amusing rather than upsetting to 
imagine the arguments going on back in 13. 

While I outwardly express discontent about our lack 
of any real participation, I'm busy with my own 
agenda. Each of us has a paper map of the Capitol. 
The city forms an almost perfect square. Lines divide 
the map into smaller squares, with letters along the 
top and numbers down the side to form a grid. I 
consume this, noting every intersection and side 
street, but it's remedial stuff. The commanders here 
are working off Plutarch's holograph. Each has a 
handheld contraption called a Holo that produces 
images like I saw in Command. They can zoom into 
any area of the grid and see what pods await them. 
The Holo's an independent unit, a glorified map 
really, since it can neither send nor receive signals. 
But it's far superior to my paper version. 
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A Holo is activated by a specific commander's voice 
giving his or her name. Once it's working, it responds 
to the other voices in the squadron so if, say, Boggs 
were killed or severely disabled, someone could take 
over. If anyone in the squad repeats "nightlock" three 
times in a row, the Holo will explode, blowing 
everything in a five-yard radius sky-high. This is for 
security reasons in the event of capture. It's 
understood that we would all do this without 
hesitation. 

So what I need to do is steal Boggs 's activated Holo 
and clear out before he notices. I think it would be 
easier to steal his teeth. 

On the fourth morning, Soldier Leeg 2 hits a 
mislabeled pod. It doesn't unleash a swarm of 
muttation gnats, which the rebels are prepared for, 
but shoots out a sunburst of metal darts. One finds 
her brain. She's gone before the medics can reach 
her. Plutarch promises a speedy replacement. 

The following evening, the newest member of our 
squad arrives. With no manacles. No guards. Strolling 
out of the train station with his gun swinging from 
the strap over his shoulder. There's shock, confusion, 
resistance, but 451 is stamped on the back of Peeta's 
hand in fresh ink. Boggs relieves him of his weapon 
and goes to make a call. 

"It won't matter," Peeta tells the rest of us. "The 
president assigned me herself. She decided the 
propos needed some heating up." 

Maybe they do. But if Coin sent Peeta here, she's 
decided something else as well. That I'm of more use 
to her dead than alive. 



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PART III 
"THE ASSASSIN" 



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I've never really seen Boggs angry before. Not when 
I've disobeyed his orders or puked on him, not even 
when Gale broke his nose. But he's angry when he 
returns from his phone call with the president. The 
first thing he does is instruct Soldier Jackson, his 
second in command, to set up a two-person, round- 
the-clock guard on Peeta. Then he takes me on a 
walk, weaving through the sprawling tent 
encampment until our squad is far behind us. 

"He'll try and kill me anyway," I say. "Especially here. 
Where there are so many bad memories to set him 
off." 

"I'll keep him contained, Katniss," says Boggs. 

"Why does Coin want me dead now?" I ask. 

"She denies she does," he answers. 

"But we know it's true," I say. "And you must at least 
have a theory." 

Boggs gives me a long, hard look before he answers. 
"Here's as much as I know. The president doesn't like 
you. She never did. It was Peeta she wanted rescued 
from the arena, but no one else agreed. It made 
matters worse when you forced her to give the other 
victors immunity. But even that could be overlooked 
in view of how well you've performed." 

"Then what is it?" I insist. 

"Sometime in the near future, this war will be 
resolved. A new leader will be chosen," says Boggs. 
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I roll my eyes. "Boggs, no one thinks I'm going to be 
the leader." 

"No. They don't," he agrees. "But you'll throw support 
to someone. Would it be President Coin? Or someone 
else?" 

"I don't know. I've never thought about it," I say. 

"If your immediate answer isn't Coin, then you're a 
threat. You're the face of the rebellion. You may have 
more influence than any other single person," says 
Boggs. "Outwardly, the most you've ever done is 
tolerated her." 

"So she'll kill me to shut me up." The minute I say the 
words, I know they're true. 

"She doesn't need you as a rallying point now. As she 
said, your primary objective, to unite the districts, 
has succeeded," Boggs reminds me. "These current 
propos could be done without you. There's only one 
last thing you could do to add fire to the rebellion." 

"Die," I say quietly. 

"Yes. Give us a martyr to fight for," says Boggs. "But 
that's not going to happen under my watch, Soldier 
Everdeen. I'm planning for you to have a long life." 

"Why?" This kind of thinking will only bring him 
trouble. "You don't owe me anything." 

"Because you've earned it," he says. "Now get back to 
your squad." 

I know I should feel appreciative of Boggs sticking his 
neck out for me, but really I'm just frustrated. I mean, 
how can I steal his Holo and desert now? Betraying 



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him was complicated enough without this whole new 
layer of debt. I already owe him for saving my life. 

Seeing the cause of my current dilemma calmly 
pitching his tent back at our site makes me furious. 
"What time is my watch?" I ask Jackson. 

She squints at me in doubt, or maybe she's just 
trying to get my face in focus. "I didn't put you in the 
rotation." 

"Why not?" I ask. 

"I'm not sure you could really shoot Peeta, if it came 
to it," she says. 

I speak up so the whole squad can hear me clearly. "I 
wouldn't be shooting Peeta. He's gone. Johanna's 
right. It'd be just like shooting another of the Capitol's 
mutts." It feels good to say something horrible about 
him, out loud, in public, after all the humiliation I've 
felt since his return. 

"Well, that sort of comment isn't recommending you 
either," says Jackson. 

"Put her in the rotation," I hear Boggs say behind me. 

Jackson shakes her head and makes a note. 
"Midnight to four. You're on with me." 

The dinner whistle sounds, and Gale and I line up at 
the canteen. "Do you want me to kill him?" he asks 
bluntly. 

"That'll get us both sent back for sure," I say. But 
even though I'm furious, the brutality of the offer 
rattles me. "I can deal with him." 



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"You mean until you take off? You and your paper 
map and possibly a Holo if you can get your hands on 
it?" So Gale has not missed my preparations. I hope 
they haven't been so obvious to the others. None of 
them know my mind like he does, though. "You're not 
planning on leaving me behind, are you?" he asks. 

Up until this point, I was. But having my hunting 
partner to watch my back doesn't sound like a bad 
idea. "As your fellow soldier, I have to strongly 
recommend you stay with your squad. But I can't 
stop you from coming, can I?" 

He grins. "No. Not unless you want me to alert the 
rest of the army." 

Squad 451 and the television crew collect dinner from 
the canteen and gather in a tense circle to eat. At first 
I think that Peeta is the cause of the unease, but by 
the end of the meal, I realize more than a few 
unfriendly looks have been directed my way. This is a 
quick turnaround, since I'm pretty sure when Peeta 
appeared the whole team was concerned about how 
dangerous he might be, especially to me. But it's not 
until I get a phone call through to Haymitch that I 
understand. 

"What are you trying to do? Provoke him into an 
attack?" he asks me. 

"Of course not. I just want him to leave me alone," I 
say. 

"Well, he can't. Not after what the Capitol put him 
through," says Haymitch. "Look, Coin may have sent 
him there hoping he'd kill you, but Peeta doesn't 
know that. He doesn't understand what's happened to 
him. So you can't blame him—" 



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I don't!" I say. 



"You do! You're punishing him over and over for 
things that are out of his control. Now, I'm not saying 
you shouldn't have a fully loaded weapon next to you 
round the clock. But I think it's time you flipped this 
little scenario around in your head. If you'd been 
taken by the Capitol, and hijacked, and then tried to 
kill Peeta, is this the way he would be treating you?" 
demands Haymitch. 

I fall silent. It isn't. It isn't how he would be treating 
me at all. He would be trying to get me back at any 
cost. Not shutting me out, abandoning me, greeting 
me with hostility at every turn. 

"You and me, we made a deal to try and save him. 
Remember?" Haymitch says. When I don't respond, 
he disconnects after a curt "Try and remember." 

The autumn day turns from brisk to cold. Most of the 
squad hunker down in their sleeping bags. Some 
sleep under the open sky, close to the heater in the 
center of our camp, while others retreat to their tents. 
Leeg 1 has finally broken down over her sister's 
death, and her muffled sobs reach us through the 
canvas. I huddle in my tent, thinking over Haymitch' s 
words. Realizing with shame that my fixation with 
assassinating Snow has allowed me to ignore a much 
more difficult problem. Trying to rescue Peeta from 
the shadowy world the hijacking has stranded him in. 
I don't know how to find him, let alone lead him out. I 
can't even conceive of a plan. It makes the task of 
crossing a loaded arena, locating Snow, and putting a 
bullet through his head look like child's play. 

At midnight, I crawl out of my tent and position 
myself on a camp stool near the heater to take my 
watch with Jackson. Boggs told Peeta to sleep out in 



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full view where the rest of us could keep an eye on 
him. He isn't sleeping, though. Instead, he sits with 
his bag pulled up to his chest, clumsily trying to 
make knots in a short length of rope. I know it well. 
It's the one Finnick lent me that night in the bunker. 
Seeing it in his hands, it's like Finnick's echoing what 
Haymitch just said, that I've cast off Peeta. Now might 
be a good time to begin to remedy that. If I could 
think of something to say. But I can't. So I don't. I 
just let the sounds of soldiers' breathing fill the night. 

After about an hour, Peeta speaks up. "These last 
couple of years must have been exhausting for you. 
Trying to decide whether to kill me or not. Back and 
forth. Back and forth." 

That seems grossly unfair, and my first impulse is to 
say something cutting. But I revisit my conversation 
with Haymitch and try to take the first tentative step 
in Peeta's direction. "I never wanted to kill you. 
Except when I thought you were helping the Careers 
kill me. After that, I always thought of you as... an 
ally." That's a good safe word. Empty of any emotional 
obligation, but nonthreatening. 

"Ally." Peeta says the word slowly, tasting it. "Friend. 
Lover. Victor. Enemy. Fiancee. Target. Mutt. 
Neighbor. Hunter. Tribute. Ally. I'll add it to the list of 
words I use to try to figure you out." He weaves the 
rope in and out of his fingers. "The problem is, I can't 
tell what's real anymore, and what's made up." 

The cessation of rhythmic breathing suggests that 
either people have woken or have never really been 
asleep at all. I suspect the latter. 

Finnick's voice rises from a bundle in the shadows. 
"Then you should ask, Peeta. That's what Annie 
does." 



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"Ask who?" Peeta says. "Who can I trust?" 



"Well, us for starters. We're your squad," says 
Jackson. 

"You're my guards," he points out. 

"That, too," she says. "But you saved a lot of lives in 
Thirteen. It's not the kind of thing we forget." 

In the quiet that follows, I try to imagine not being 
able to tell illusion from reality. Not knowing if Prim 
or my mother loved me. If Snow was my enemy. If the 
person across the heater saved or sacrificed me. With 
very little effort, my life rapidly morphs into a 
nightmare. I suddenly want to tell Peeta everything 
about who he is, and who I am, and how we ended up 
here. But I don't know how to start. Worthless. I'm 
worthless. 

At a few minutes before four, Peeta turns to me again. 
"Your favorite color... it's green?" 

"That's right." Then I think of something to add. "And 
yours is orange." 

"Orange?" He seems unconvinced. 

"Not bright orange. But soft. Like the sunset," I say. 
"At least, that's what you told me once." 

"Oh." He closes his eyes briefly, maybe trying to 
conjure up that sunset, then nods his head. "Thank 
you." 

But more words tumble out. "You're a painter. You're 
a baker. You like to sleep with the windows open. You 
never take sugar in your tea. And you always double- 
knot your shoelaces." 



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Then I dive into my tent before I do something stupid 
like cry. 



In the morning, Gale, Finnick, and I go out to shoot 
some glass off the buildings for the camera crew. 
When we get back to camp, Peeta's sitting in a circle 
with the soldiers from 13, who are armed but talking 
openly with him. Jackson has devised a game called 
"Real or Not Real" to help Peeta. He mentions 
something he thinks happened, and they tell him if 
it's true or imagined, usually followed by a brief 
explanation. 

"Most of the people from Twelve were killed in the 
fire." 

"Real. Less than nine hundred of you made it to 
Thirteen alive." 

"The fire was my fault." 

"Not real. President Snow destroyed Twelve the way 
he did Thirteen, to send a message to the rebels." 

This seems like a good idea until I realize that I'll be 
the only one who can confirm or deny most of what 
weighs on him. Jackson breaks us up into watches. 
She matches up Finnick, Gale, and me each with a 
soldier from 13. This way Peeta will always have 
access to someone who knows him more personally. 
It's not a steady conversation. Peeta spends a long 
time considering even small pieces of information, like 
where people bought their soap back home. Gale fills 
him in on a lot of stuff about 12; Finnick is the expert 
on both of Peeta's Games, as he was a mentor in the 
first and a tribute in the second. But since Peeta's 
greatest confusion centers around me— and not 
everything can be explained simply— our exchanges 
are painful and loaded, even though we touch on only 



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the most superficial of details. The color of my dress 
in 7. My preference for cheese buns. The name of our 
math teacher when we were little. Reconstructing his 
memory of me is excruciating. Perhaps it isn't even 
possible after what Snow did to him. But it does feel 
right to help him try. 

The next afternoon, we're notified that the whole 
squad is needed to stage a fairly complicated propo. 
Peeta's been right about one thing: Coin and Plutarch 
are unhappy with the quality of footage they're getting 
from the Star Squad. Very dull. Very uninspiring. The 
obvious response is that they never let us do anything 
but playact with our guns. However, this is not about 
defending ourselves, it's about coming up with a 
usable product. So today, a special block has been set 
aside for filming. It even has a couple of active pods 
on it. One unleashes a spray of gunfire. The other 
nets the invader and traps them for either 
interrogation or execution, depending on the captors' 
preference. But it's still an unimportant residential 
block with nothing of strategic consequence. 

The television crew means to provide a sense of 
heightened jeopardy by releasing smoke bombs and 
adding gunfire sound effects. We suit up in heavy 
protective gear, even the crew, as if we're heading into 
the heart of battle. Those of us with specialty 
weapons are allowed to take them along with our 
guns. Boggs gives Peeta back his gun, too, although 
he makes sure to tell him in a loud voice that it's only 
loaded with blanks. 

Peeta just shrugs. "I'm not much of a shot anyway." 
He seems preoccupied with watching Pollux, to the 
point where it's getting a little worrisome, when he 
finally puzzles it out and begins to speak with 
agitation. "You're an Avox, aren't you? I can tell by the 
way you swallow. There were two Avoxes with me in 
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prison. Darius and Lavinia, but the guards mostly 
called them the redheads. They'd been our servants in 
the Training Center, so they arrested them, too. I 
watched them being tortured to death. She was lucky. 
They used too much voltage and her heart stopped 
right off. It took days to finish him off. Beating, 
cutting off parts. They kept asking him questions, but 
he couldn't speak, he just made these horrible animal 
sounds. They didn't want information, you know? 
They wanted me to see it." 

Peeta looks around at our stunned faces, as if waiting 
for a reply. When none is forthcoming, he asks, "Real 
or not real?" The lack of response upsets him more. 
"Real or not real?!" he demands. 

"Real," says Boggs. "At least, to the best of my 
knowledge ... real . " 

Peeta sags. "I thought so. There was nothing... shiny 
about it." He wanders away from the group, muttering 
something about fingers and toes. 

I move to Gale, press my forehead into the body 
armor where his chest should be, feel his arm tighten 
around me. We finally know the name of the girl who 
we watched the Capitol abduct from the woods of 12, 
the fate of the Peacekeeper friend who tried to keep 
Gale alive. This is no time to call up happy moments 
of remembrance. They lost their lives because of me. I 
add them to my personal list of kills that began in the 
arena and now includes thousands. When I look up, I 
see it has taken Gale differently. His expression says 
that there are not enough mountains to crush, 
enough cities to destroy. It promises death. 

With Peeta's grisly account fresh in our minds, we 
crunch through the streets of broken glass until we 
reach our target, the block we are to take. It is a real, 
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if small, goal to accomplish. We gather around Boggs 
to examine the Holo projection of the street. The 
gunfire pod is positioned about a third of the way 
down, just above an apartment awning. We should be 
able to trigger it with bullets. The net pod is at the far 
end, almost the next corner. This will require 
someone to set off the body sensor mechanism. 
Everyone volunteers except Peeta, who doesn't seem 
to know quite what's going on. I don't get picked. I get 
sent to Messalla, who dabs some makeup on my face 
for the anticipated close-ups. 

The squad positions itself under Boggs's direction, 
and then we have to wait for Cressida to get the 
cameramen in place as well. They're both to our left, 
with Castor toward the front and Pollux bringing up 
the rear so they'll be sure not to record each other. 
Messalla sets off a couple of smoke charges for 
atmosphere. Since this is both a mission and a shoot, 
I'm about to ask who's in charge, my commander or 
my director, when Cressida calls, "Action!" 

We slowly proceed down the hazy street, just like one 
of our exercises in the Block. Everyone has at least 
one section of windows to blow out, but Gale's 
assigned the real target. When he hits the pod, we 
take cover— ducking into doorways or flattening onto 
the pretty, light orange and pink paving stones— as a 
hail of bullets sweeps back and forth over our heads. 
After a while, Boggs orders us forward. 

Cressida stops us before we can rise, since she needs 
some close-up shots. We take turns reenacting our 
responses. Falling to the ground, grimacing, diving 
into alcoves. We know it's supposed to be serious 
business, but the whole thing feels a little ridiculous. 
Especially when it turns out that I'm not the worst 
actor in the squad. Not by a long shot. We're all 
laughing so hard at Mitchell's attempt to project his 
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idea of desperation, which involves teeth grinding and 
nostrils flaring, that Boggs has to reprimand us. 

"Pull it together, Four- Five -One," he says firmly. But 
you can see him suppressing a smile as he's double- 
checking the next pod. Positioning the Holo to find 
the best light in the smoky air. Still facing us as his 
left foot steps back onto the orange paving stone. 
Triggering the bomb that blows off his legs. 



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19 



It's as if in an instant, a painted window shatters, 
revealing the ugly world behind it. Laughter changes 
to screams, blood stains pastel stones, real smoke 
darkens the special effect stuff made for television. 

A second explosion seems to split the air and leaves 
my ears ringing. But I can't make out where it came 
from. 

I reach Boggs first, try to make sense of the torn 
flesh, missing limbs, to find something to stem the 
red flow from his body. Homes pushes me aside, 
wrenching open a first-aid kit. Boggs clutches my 
wrist. His face, gray with dying and ash, seems to be 
receding. But his next words are an order. "The Holo." 

The Holo. I scramble around, digging through chunks 
of tile slick with blood, shuddering when I encounter 
bits of warm flesh. Find it rammed into a stairwell 
with one of Boggs's boots. Retrieve it, wiping it clean 
with bare hands as I return it to my commander. 

Homes has the stump of Boggs's left thigh cupped by 
some sort of compression bandage, but it's already 
soaked through. He's trying to tourniquet the other 
above the existing knee. The rest of the squad has 
gathered in a protective formation around the crew 
and us. Finnick's attempting to revive Messalla, who 
was thrown into a wall by the explosion. Jackson's 
barking into a field communicator, trying 
unsuccessfully to alert the camp to send medics, but I 
know it's too late. As a child, watching my mother 
work, I learned that once a pool of blood has reached 
a certain size, there's no going back. 



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I kneel beside Boggs, prepared to repeat the role I 
played with Rue, with the morphling from 6, giving 
him someone to hold on to as he's released from life. 
But Boggs has both hands working the Holo. He's 
typing in a command, pressing his thumb to the 
screen for print recognition, speaking a string of 
letters and numbers in response to a prompt. A green 
shaft of light bursts out of the Holo and illuminates 
his face. He says, "Unfit for command. Transfer of 
prime security clearance to Squad Four-Five-One 
Soldier Katniss Everdeen." It's all he can do to turn 
the Holo toward my face. "Say your name." 

"Katniss Everdeen," I say into the green shaft. 
Suddenly, it has me trapped in its light. I can't move 
or even blink as images flicker rapidly before me. 
Scanning me? Recording me? Blinding me? It 
vanishes, and I shake my head to clear it. "What did 
you do?" 

"Prepare to retreat!" Jackson hollers. 

Finnick's yelling something back, gesturing to the end 
of the block where we entered. Black, oily matter 
spouts like a geyser from the street, billowing between 
the buildings, creating an impenetrable wall of 
darkness. It seems to be neither liquid nor gas, 
mechanical nor natural. Surely it's lethal. There's no 
heading back the way we came. 

Deafening gunfire as Gale and Leeg 1 begin to blast a 
path across the stones toward the far end of the 
block. I don't know what they're doing until another 
bomb, ten yards away, detonates, opening a hole in 
the street. Then I realize this is a rudimentary 
attempt at minesweeping. Homes and I latch on to 
Boggs and begin to drag him after Gale. Agony takes 
over and he's crying out in pain and I want to stop, to 



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find a better way, but the blackness is rising above 
the buildings, swelling, rolling at us like a wave. 



I'm yanked backward, lose my grip on Boggs, slam 
into the stones. Peeta looks down at me, gone, mad, 
flashing back into the land of the hijacked, his gun 
raised over me, descending to crush my skull. I roll, 
hear the butt slam into the street, catch the tumble of 
bodies out of the corner of my eye as Mitchell tackles 
Peeta and pins him to the ground. But Peeta, always 
so powerful and now fueled by tracker j acker 
insanity, gets his feet under Mitchell's belly and 
launches him farther down the block. 

There's a loud snap of a trap as the pod triggers. Four 
cables, attached to tracks on the buildings, break 
through the stones, dragging up the net that encases 
Mitchell. It makes no sense— how instantly bloodied 
he is— until we see the barbs sticking from the wire 
that encases him. I know it immediately. It decorated 
the top of the fence around 12. As I call to him not to 
move, I gag on the smell of the blackness, thick, 
tarlike. The wave has crested and begun to fall. 

Gale and Leeg 1 shoot through the front door lock of 
the corner building, then begin to fire at the cables 
holding Mitchell's net. Others are restraining Peeta 
now. I lunge back to Boggs, and Homes and I drag 
him inside the apartment, through someone's pink 
and white velvet living room, down a hallway hung 
with family photos, onto the marble floor of a kitchen, 
where we collapse. Castor and Pollux carry in a 
writhing Peeta between them. Somehow Jackson gets 
cuffs on him, but it only makes him wilder and 
they're forced to lock him in a closet. 

In the living room, the front door slams, people shout. 
Then footsteps pound down the hall as the black 
wave roars past the building. From the kitchen, we 



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can hear the windows groan, shatter. The noxious tar 
smell permeates the air. Finnick carries in Messalla. 
Leeg 1 and Cressida stumble into the room after 
them, coughing. 

"Gale!" I shriek. 

He's there, slamming the kitchen door shut behind 
him, choking out one word. "Fumes!" Castor and 
Pollux grab towels, aprons to stuff in the cracks as 
Gale retches into a bright yellow sink. 

"Mitchell?" asks Homes. Leeg 1 just shakes her head. 

Boggs forces the Holo into my hand. His lips are 
moving, but I can't make out what he's saying. I lean 
my ear down to his mouth to catch his harsh 
whisper. "Don't trust them. Don't go back. Kill Peeta. 
Do what you came to do." 

I draw back so I can see his face. "What? Boggs? 
Boggs?" His eyes are still open, but dead. Pressed in 
my hand, glued to it by his blood, is the Holo. 

Peeta' s feet slamming into the closet door break up 
the ragged breathing of the others. But even as we 
listen, his energy seems to ebb. The kicks diminish to 
an irregular drumming. Then nothing. I wonder if he, 
too, is dead. 

"He's gone?" Finnick asks, looking down at Boggs. I 
nod. "We need to get out of here. Now. We just set off 
a streetful of pods. You can bet they've got us on 
surveillance tapes." 

"Count on it," says Castor. "All the streets are covered 
by surveillance cameras. I bet they set off the black 
wave manually when they saw us taping the propo." 



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"Our radio communicators went dead almost 
immediately. Probably an electromagnetic pulse 
device. But I'll get us back to camp. Give me the 
Holo." Jackson reaches for the unit, but I clutch it to 
my chest. 

"No. Boggs gave it to me," I say. 

"Don't be ridiculous," she snaps. Of course, she 
thinks it's hers. She's second in command. 

"It's true," says Homes. "He transferred the prime 
security clearance to her while he was dying. I saw it." 

"Why would he do that?" demands Jackson. 

Why indeed? My head's reeling from the ghastly 
events of the last five minutes— Boggs mutilated, 
dying, dead, Peeta's homicidal rage, Mitchell bloody 
and netted and swallowed by that foul black wave. I 
turn to Boggs, very badly needing him alive. Suddenly 
sure that he, and maybe he alone, is completely on 
my side. I think of his last orders.... 

"Don't trust them. Don't go back. Kill Peeta. Do what 
you came to do." 

What did he mean? Don't trust who? The rebels? 
Coin? The people looking at me right now? I won't go 
back, but he must know I can't just fire a bullet 
through Peeta's head. Can I? Should I? Did Boggs 
guess that what I really came to do is desert and kill 
Snow on my own? 

I can't work all of this out now, so I just decide to 
carry out the first two orders: to not trust anyone and 
to move deeper into the Capitol. But how can I justify 
this? Make them let me keep the Holo? 



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"Because I'm on a special mission for President Coin. 
I think Boggs was the only one who knew about it." 

This in no way convinces Jackson. "To do what?" 

Why not tell them the truth? It's as plausible as 
anything I'll come up with. But it must seem like a 
real mission, not revenge. "To assassinate President 
Snow before the loss of life from this war makes our 
population unsustainable." 

"I don't believe you," says Jackson. "As your current 
commander, I order you to transfer the prime security 
clearance over to me." 

"No," I say. "That would be in direct violation of 
President Coin's orders." 

Guns are pointed. Half the squad at Jackson, half at 
me. Someone's about to die, when Cressida speaks 
up. "It's true. That's why we're here. Plutarch wants it 
televised. He thinks if we can film the Mockingjay 
assassinating Snow, it will end the war." 

This gives even Jackson pause. Then she gestures 
with her gun toward the closet. "And why is he here?" 

There she has me. I can think of no sane reason that 
Coin would send an unstable boy, programmed to kill 
me, along on such a key assignment. It really 
weakens my story. Cressida comes to my aid again. 
"Because the two post-Games interviews with Caesar 
Flickerman were shot in President Snow's personal 
quarters. Plutarch thinks Peeta may be of some use 
as a guide in a location we have little knowledge of." 

I want to ask Cressida why she's lying for me, why 
she's fighting for us to go on with my self-appointed 
mission. Now's not the time. 



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"We have to go!" says Gale. "I'm following Katniss. If 
you don't want to, head back to camp. But let's 
move!" 

Homes unlocks the closet and heaves an unconscious 
Peeta over his shoulder. "Ready." 

"Boggs?" says Leeg 1. 

"We can't take him. He'd understand," says Finnick. 
He frees Boggs's gun from his shoulder and slings the 
strap over his own. "Lead on, Soldier Everdeen." 

I don't know how to lead on. I look at the Holo for 
direction. It's still activated, but it might as well be 
dead for all the good that does me. There's no time for 
fiddling around with the buttons, trying to figure out 
how to work it. "I don't know how to use this. Boggs 
said you would help me," I tell Jackson. "He said I 
could count on you." 

Jackson scowls, snatches the Holo from me, and taps 
in a command. An intersection comes up. "If we go 
out the kitchen door, there's a small courtyard, then 
the back side of another corner apartment unit. We're 
looking at an overview of the four streets that meet at 
the intersection." 

I try to get my bearings as I stare at the cross section 
of the map blinking with pods in every direction. And 
those are only the pods Plutarch knows about. The 
Holo didn't indicate that the block we just left was 
mined, had the black geyser, or that the net was 
made from barbed wire. Besides that, there may be 
Peacekeepers to deal with, now that they know our 
position. I bite the inside of my lip, feeling everyone's 
eyes on me. "Put on your masks. We're going out the 
way we came in." 



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Instant objections. I raise my voice over them. "If the 
wave was that powerful, then it may have triggered 
and absorbed other pods in our path." 



People stop to consider this. Pollux makes a few quick 
signs to his brother. "It may have disabled the 
cameras as well," Castor translates. "Coated the 
lenses." 

Gale props one of his boots on the counter and 
examines the splatter of black on the toe. Scrapes it 
with a kitchen knife from a block on the counter. "It's 
not corrosive. I think it was meant to either suffocate 
or poison us." 

"Probably our best shot," says Leeg 1. 

Masks go on. Finnick adjusts Peeta's mask over his 
lifeless face. Cressida and Leeg 1 prop up a woozy 
Messalla between them. 

I'm waiting for someone to take the point position 
when I remember that's my job now. I push on the 
kitchen door and meet with no resistance. A half-inch 
layer of the black goo has spread from the living room 
about three-quarters of the way down the hall. When 
I gingerly test it with the toe of my boot, I find it has 
the consistency of a gel. I lift my foot and after 
stretching slightly, it springs back into place. I take 
three steps into the gel and look back. No footprints. 
It's the first good thing that's happened today. The gel 
becomes slightly thicker as I cross the living room. I 
ease open the front door, expecting gallons of the stuff 
to pour in, but it holds its form. 

The pink and orange block seems to have been dipped 
in glossy black paint and set out to dry. Paving 
stones, buildings, even the rooftops are coated in the 
gel. A large teardrop hangs above the street. Two 



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shapes project from it. A gun barrel and a human 
hand. Mitchell. I wait on the sidewalk, staring up at 
him until the entire group has joined me. 



"If anyone needs to go back, for whatever reason, now 
is the time," I say. "No questions asked, no hard 
feelings." No one seems inclined to retreat. So I start 
moving into the Capitol, knowing we don't have much 
time. The gel's deeper here, four to six inches, and 
makes a sucking sound each time you pick up your 
foot, but it still covers our tracks. 

The wave must have been enormous, with 
tremendous power behind it, as it's affected several 
blocks that lie ahead. And though I tread with care, I 
think my instinct was right about its triggering other 
pods. One block is sprinkled with the golden bodies of 
tracker j ackers. They must have been set free only to 
succumb to the fumes. A little farther along, an entire 
apartment building has collapsed and lies in a mound 
under the gel. I sprint across the intersections, 
holding up a hand for the others to wait while I look 
for trouble, but the wave seems to have dismantled 
the pods far better than any squad of rebels could. 

On the fifth block, I can tell that we've reached the 
point where the wave began to peter out. The gel's 
only an inch deep, and I can see baby blue rooftops 
peeking out across the next intersection. The 
afternoon light has faded, and we badly need to get 
under cover and form a plan. I choose an apartment 
two-thirds of the way down the block. Homes jimmies 
the lock, and I order the others inside. I stay on the 
street for just a minute, watching the last of our 
footprints fade away, then close the door behind me. 

Flashlights built into our guns illuminate a large 
living room with mirrored walls that throw our faces 
back at us at every turn. Gale checks the windows, 



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which show no damage, and removes his mask. "It's 
all right. You can smell it, but it's not too strong." 

The apartment seems to be laid out exactly like the 
first one we took refuge in. The gel blacks out any 
natural daylight in the front, but some light still slips 
through the shutters in the kitchen. Along the 
hallway are two bedrooms with baths. A spiral 
staircase in the living room leads up to an open space 
that composes much of the second floor. There are no 
windows upstairs, but the lights have been left on, 
probably by someone hastily evacuating. A huge 
television screen, blank but glowing softly, occupies 
one wall. Plush chairs and sofas are strewn around 
the room. This is where we congregate, slump into 
upholstery, try to catch our breath. 

Jackson has her gun trained on Peeta even though 
he's still cuffed and unconscious, draped across a 
deep-blue sofa where Homes deposited him. What on 
earth am I going to do with him? With the crew? With 
everybody, frankly, besides Gale and Finnick? 
Because I'd rather track down Snow with those two 
than without them. But I can't lead ten people 
through the Capitol on a pretend mission, even if I 
could read the Holo. Should I, could I have sent them 
back when I had a chance? Or was it too dangerous? 
Both to them personally and to my mission? Maybe I 
shouldn't have listened to Boggs, because he might 
have been in some delusional death state. Maybe I 
should just come clean, but then Jackson would take 
over and we'd end up back at camp. Where I'd have 
Coin to answer to. 

Just as the complexity of the mess I've dragged 
everybody into begins to overload my brain, a distant 
chain of explosions sends a tremor through the room. 



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"It wasn't close," Jackson assures us. "A good four or 
five blocks away." 

"Where we left Boggs," says Leeg 1. 

Although no one has made a move toward it, the 
television flares to life, emitting a high-pitched 
beeping sound, bringing half our party to its feet. 

"It's all right!" calls Cressida. "It's just an emergency 
broadcast. Every Capitol television is automatically 
activated for it." 

There we are on-screen, just after the bomb took out 
Boggs. A voice-over tells the audience what they are 
viewing as we try to regroup, react to the black gel 
shooting from the street, lose control of the situation. 
We watch the chaos that follows until the wave blots 
out the cameras. The last thing we see is Gale, alone 
on the street, trying to shoot through the cables that 
hold Mitchell aloft. 

The reporter identifies Gale, Finnick, Boggs, Peeta, 
Cressida, and me by name. 

"There's no aerial footage. Boggs must have been right 
about their hovercraft capacity," says Castor. I didn't 
notice this, but I guess it's the kind of thing a 
cameraman picks up on. 

Coverage continues from the courtyard behind the 
apartment where we took shelter. Peacekeepers line 
the roof across from our former hideout. Shells are 
launched into the row of apartments, setting off the 
chain of explosions we heard, and the building 
collapses into rubble and dust. 

Now we cut to a live feed. A reporter stands on the 
roof with the Peacekeepers. Behind her, the 



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apartment block burns. Firefighters try to control the 
blaze with water hoses. We are pronounced dead. 



"Finally, a bit of luck," says Homes. 

I guess he's right. Certainly it's better than having the 
Capitol in pursuit of us. But I just keep imagining 
how this will be playing back in 13. Where my mother 
and Prim, Hazelle and the kids, Annie, Haymitch, and 
a whole lot of people from 13 think that they have just 
seen us die. 

"My father. He just lost my sister and now..." says 
Leeg 1. 

We watch as they play the footage over and over. 
Revel in their victory, especially over me. Break away 
to do a montage of the Mockingjay's rise to rebel 
power— I think they've had this part prepared for a 
while, because it seems pretty polished— and then go 
live so a couple of reporters can discuss my well- 
deserved violent end. Later, they promise, Snow will 
make an official statement. The screen fades back to 
a glow. 

The rebels made no attempt to break in during the 
broadcast, which leads me to believe they think it's 
true. If that's so, we really are on our own. 

"So, now that we're dead, what's our next move?" 
asks Gale. 

"Isn't it obvious?" No one even knew Peeta had 
regained consciousness. I don't know how long he's 
been watching, but by the look of misery on his face, 
long enough to see what happened on the street. How 
he went mad, tried to bash my head in, and hurled 
Mitchell into the pod. He painfully pushes himself up 
to a sitting position and directs his words to Gale. 



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"Our next move... is to kill me." 



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That makes two requests for Peeta's death in less 
than an hour. 

"Don't be ridiculous," says Jackson. 

"I just murdered a member of our squad!" shouts 
Peeta. 

"You pushed him off you. You couldn't have known he 
would trigger the net at that exact spot," says 
Finnick, trying to calm him. 

"Who cares? He's dead, isn't he?" Tears begin to run 
down Peeta's face. "I didn't know. I've never seen 
myself like that before. Katniss is right. I'm the 
monster. I'm the mutt. I'm the one Snow has turned 
into a weapon!" 

"It's not your fault, Peeta," says Finnick. 

"You can't take me with you. It's only a matter of time 
before I kill someone else." Peeta looks around at our 
conflicted faces. "Maybe you think it's kinder to just 
dump me somewhere. Let me take my chances. But 
that's the same thing as handing me over to the 
Capitol. Do you think you'd be doing me a favor by 
sending me back to Snow?" 

Peeta. Back in Snow's hands. Tortured and tormented 
until no bits of his former self will ever emerge again. 

For some reason, the last stanza to "The Hanging 
Tree" starts running through my head. The one where 



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the man wants his lover dead rather than have her 
face the evil that awaits her in the world. 

Are you, are you 
Coming to the tree 

Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me. 
Strange things did happen here 
No stranger would it be 

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree. 

"I'll kill you before that happens," says Gale. "I 
promise." 

Peeta hesitates, as if considering the reliability of this 
offer, and then shakes his head. "It's no good. What if 
you're not there to do it? I want one of those poison 
pills like the rest of you have." 

Nightlock. There's one pill back at camp, in its special 
slot on the sleeve of my Mockingjay suit. But there's 
another in the breast pocket of my uniform. 
Interesting that they didn't issue one to Peeta. 
Perhaps Coin thought he might take it before he had 
the opportunity to kill me. It's unclear if Peeta means 
he'd finish himself off now, to spare us having to 
murder him, or only if the Capitol took him prisoner 
again. In the state he's in, I expect it would be sooner 
rather than later. It would certainly make things 
easier on the rest of us. Not to have to shoot him. It 
would certainly simplify the problem of dealing with 
his homicidal episodes. 

I don't know if it's the pods, or the fear, or watching 
Boggs die, but I feel the arena all around me. It's as if 
I've never left, really. Once again I'm battling not only 
for my own survival but for Peeta' s as well. How 
satisfying, how entertaining it would be for Snow to 



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have me kill him. To have Peeta's death on my 
conscience for whatever is left of my life. 

"It's not about you," I say. "We're on a mission. And 
you're necessary to it." I look to the rest of the group. 
"Think we might find some food here?" 

Besides the medical kit and cameras, we have nothing 
but our uniforms and our weapons. 

Half of us stay to guard Peeta or keep an eye out for 
Snow's broadcast, while the others hunt for 
something to eat. Messalla proves most valuable 
because he lived in a near replica of this apartment 
and knows where people would be most likely to 
stash food. Like how there's a storage space 
concealed by a mirrored panel in the bedroom, or how 
easy it is to pop out the ventilation screen in the 
hallway. So even though the kitchen cupboards are 
bare, we find over thirty canned goods and several 
boxes of cookies. 

The hoarding disgusts the soldiers raised in 13. "Isn't 
this illegal?" says Leeg 1 . 

"On the contrary, in the Capitol you'd be considered 
stupid not to do it," says Messalla. "Even before the 
Quarter Quell, people were starting to stock up on 
scarce supplies." 

"While others went without," says Leeg 1. 

"Right," says Messalla. "That's how it works here." 

"Fortunately, or we wouldn't have dinner," says Gale. 
"Everybody grab a can." 

Some of our company seem reluctant to do this, but 
it's as good a method as any. I'm really not in the 



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mood to diwy up everything into eleven equal parts, 
factoring in age, body weight, and physical output. I 
poke around in the pile, about to settle on some cod 
chowder, when Peeta holds out a can to me. "Here." 

I take it, not knowing what to expect. The label reads 
Lamb Stew. 

I press my lips together at the memories of rain 
dripping through stones, my inept attempts at flirting, 
and the aroma of my favorite Capitol dish in the chilly 
air. So some part of it must still be in his head, too. 
How happy, how hungry, how close we were when 
that picnic basket arrived outside our cave. "Thanks." 
I pop open the top. "It even has dried plums." I bend 
the lid and use it as a makeshift spoon, scooping a bit 
into my mouth. Now this place tastes like the arena, 
too. 

We're passing around a box of fancy cream-filled 
cookies when the beeping starts again. The seal of 
Panem lights up on the screen and remains there 
while the anthem plays. And then they begin to show 
images of the dead, just as they did with the tributes 
in the arena. They start with the four faces of our TV 
crew, followed by Boggs, Gale, Finnick, Peeta, and 
me. Except for Boggs, they don't bother with the 
soldiers from 13, either because they have no idea 
who they are or because they know they won't mean 
anything to the audience. Then the man himself 
appears, seated at his desk, a flag draped behind 
him, the fresh white rose gleaming in his lapel. I think 
he might have recently had more work done, because 
his lips are puffier than usual. And his prep team 
really needs to use a lighter hand with his blush. 

Snow congratulates the Peacekeepers on a masterful 
job, honors them for ridding the country of the 
menace called the Mockingjay. With my death, he 
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predicts a turning of the tide in the war, since the 
demoralized rebels have no one left to follow. And 
what was I, really? A poor, unstable girl with a small 
talent with a bow and arrow. Not a great thinker, not 
the mastermind of the rebellion, merely a face 
plucked from the rabble because I had caught the 
nation's attention with my antics in the Games. But 
necessary, so very necessary, because the rebels have 
no real leader among them. 

Somewhere in District 13, Beetee hits a switch, 
because now it's not President Snow but President 
Coin who's looking at us. She introduces herself to 
Panem, identifies herself as the head of the rebellion, 
and then gives my eulogy. Praise for the girl who 
survived the Seam and the Hunger Games, then 
turned a country of slaves into an army of freedom 
fighters. "Dead or alive, Katniss Everdeen will remain 
the face of this rebellion. If ever you waver in your 
resolve, think of the Mockingjay, and in her you will 
find the strength you need to rid Panem of its 
oppressors." 

"I had no idea how much I meant to her," I say, which 
brings a laugh from Gale and questioning looks from 
the others. 

Up comes a heavily doctored photo of me looking 
beautiful and fierce with a bunch of flames flickering 
behind me. No words. No slogan. My face is all they 
need now. 

Beetee gives the reins back to a very controlled Snow. 
I have the feeling the president thought the 
emergency channel was impenetrable, and someone 
will end up dead tonight because it was breached. 
"Tomorrow morning, when we pull Katniss Everdeen' s 
body from the ashes, we will see exactly who the 



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Mockingjay is. A dead girl who could save no one, not 
even herself." Seal, anthem, and out. 

"Except that you won't find her," says Finnick to the 
empty screen, voicing what we're all probably 
thinking. The grace period will be brief. Once they dig 
through those ashes and come up missing eleven 
bodies, they'll know we escaped. 

"We can get a head start on them at least," I say. 
Suddenly, I'm so tired. All I want is to lie down on a 
nearby green plush sofa and go to sleep. To cocoon 
myself in a comforter made of rabbit fur and goose 
down. Instead, I pull out the Holo and insist that 
Jackson talk me through the most basic commands— 
which are really about entering the coordinates of the 
nearest map grid intersection— so that I can at least 
begin to operate the thing myself. As the Holo projects 
our surroundings, I feel my heart sink even further. 
We must be moving closer to crucial targets, because 
the number of pods has noticeably increased. How 
can we possibly move forward into this bouquet of 
blinking lights without detection? We can't. And if we 
can't, we are trapped like birds in a net. I decide it's 
best not to adopt some sort of superior attitude when 
I'm with these people. Especially when my eyes keep 
drifting to that green sofa. So I say, "Any ideas?" 

"Why don't we start by ruling out possibilities," says 
Finnick. "The street is not a possibility." 

"The rooftops are just as bad as the street," says Leeg 
1. 

"We still might have a chance to withdraw, go back 
the way we came," says Homes. "But that would mean 
a failed mission." 



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A pang of guilt hits me since I've fabricated said 
mission. "It was never intended for all of us to go 
forward. You just had the misfortune to be with me." 

"Well, that's a moot point. We're with you now," says 
Jackson. "So, we can't stay put. We can't move up. 
We can't move laterally. I think that just leaves one 
option." 

"Underground," says Gale. 

Underground. Which I hate. Like mines and tunnels 
and 13. Underground, where I dread dying, which is 
stupid because even if I die aboveground, the next 
thing they'll do is bury me underground anyway. 

The Holo can show subterranean as well as street- 
level pods. I see that when we go underground the 
clean, dependable lines of the street plan are 
interlaced with a twisting, turning mess of tunnels. 
The pods look less numerous, though. 

Two doors down, a vertical tube connects our row of 
apartments to the tunnels. To reach the tube 
apartment, we will need to squeeze through a 
maintenance shaft that runs the length of the 
building. We can enter the shaft through the back of 
a closet space on the upper floor. 

"Okay, then. Let's make it look like we've never been 
here," I say. We erase all signs of our stay. Send the 
empty cans down a trash chute, pocket the full ones 
for later, flip sofa cushions smeared with blood, wipe 
traces of gel from the tiles. There's no fixing the latch 
on the front door, but we lock a second bolt, which 
will at least keep the door from swinging open on 
contact. 



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Finally, there's only Peeta to contend with. He plants 
himself on the blue sofa, refusing to budge. "I'm not 
going. I'll either disclose your position or hurt 
someone else." 

"Snow's people will find you," says Finnick. 

"Then leave me a pill. I'll only take it if I have to," says 
Peeta. 

"That's not an option. Come along," says Jackson. 

"Or you'll what? Shoot me?" asks Peeta. 

"We'll knock you out and drag you with us," says 
Homes. "Which will both slow us down and endanger 
us." 

"Stop being noble! I don't care if I die!" He turns to 
me, pleading now. "Katniss, please. Don't you see, I 
want to be out of this?" 

The trouble is, I do see. Why can't I just let him go? 
Slip him a pill, pull the trigger? Is it because I care 
too much about Peeta or too much about letting Snow 
win? Have I turned him into a piece in my private 
Games? That's despicable, but I'm not sure it's 
beneath me. If it's true, it would be kindest to kill 
Peeta here and now. But for better or worse, I am not 
motivated by kindness. "We're wasting time. Are you 
coming voluntarily or do we knock you out?" 

Peeta buries his face in his hands for a few moments, 
then rises to join us. 

"Should we free his hands?" asks Leeg 1. 

"No!" Peeta growls at her, drawing his cuffs in close to 
his body. 



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"No," I echo. "But I want the key." Jackson passes it 
over without a word. I slip it into my pants pocket, 
where it clicks against the pearl. 



When Homes pries open the small metal door to the 
maintenance shaft, we encounter another problem. 
There's no way the insect shells will be able to fit 
through the narrow passage. Castor and Pollux 
remove them and detach emergency backup cameras. 
Each is the size of a shoe box and probably works 
about as well. Messalla can't think of anywhere better 
to hide the bulky shells, so we end up dumping them 
in the closet. Leaving such an easy trail to follow 
frustrates me, but what else can we do? 

Even going single file, holding our packs and gear out 
to the side, it's a tight fit. We sidestep our way past 
the first apartment, and break into the second. In this 
apartment, one of the bedrooms has a door marked 
utility instead of a bathroom. Behind the door is the 
room with the entrance to the tube. 

Messalla frowns at the wide circular cover, for a 
moment returning to his own fussy world. "It's why no 
one ever wants the center unit. Workmen coming and 
going whenever and no second bath. But the rent's 
considerably cheaper." Then he notices Finnick's 
amused expression and adds, "Never mind." 

The tube cover's simple to unlatch. A wide ladder with 
rubber treads on the steps allows for a swift, easy 
descent into the bowels of the city. We gather at the 
foot of the ladder, waiting for our eyes to adjust to the 
dim strips of lights, breathing in the mixture of 
chemicals, mildew, and sewage. 

Pollux, pale and sweaty, reaches out and latches on 
to Castor's wrist. Like he might fall over if there isn't 
someone to steady him. 



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"My brother worked down here after he became an 
Avox," says Castor. Of course. Who else would they 
get to maintain these dank, evil-smelling passages 
mined with pods? "Took five years before we were able 
to buy his way up to ground level. Didn't see the sun 
once." 

Under better conditions, on a day with fewer horrors 
and more rest, someone would surely know what to 
say. Instead we all stand there for a long time trying 
to formulate a response. 

Finally, Peeta turns to Pollux. "Well, then you just 
became our most valuable asset." Castor laughs and 
Pollux manages a smile. 

We're halfway down the first tunnel when I realize 
what was so remarkable about the exchange. Peeta 
sounded like his old self, the one who could always 
think of the right thing to say when nobody else 
could. Ironic, encouraging, a little funny, but not at 
anyone's expense. I glance back at him as he trudges 
along under his guards, Gale and Jackson, his eyes 
fixed on the ground, his shoulders hunched forward. 
So dispirited. But for a moment, he was really here. 

Peeta called it right. Pollux turns out to be worth ten 
Holos. There is a simple network of wide tunnels that 
directly corresponds to the main street plan above, 
underlying the major avenues and cross streets. It's 
called the Transfer, since small trucks use it to 
deliver goods around the city. During the day, its 
many pods are deactivated, but at night it's a 
minefield. However, hundreds of additional passages, 
utility shafts, train tracks, and drainage tubes form a 
multilevel maze. Pollux knows details that would lead 
to disaster for a newcomer, like which offshoots might 
require gas masks or have live wires or rats the size of 
beavers. He alerts us to the gush of water that sweeps 
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through the sewers periodically, anticipates the time 
the Avoxes will be changing shifts, leads us into 
damp, obscure pipes to dodge the nearly silent 
passage of cargo trains. Most important, he has 
knowledge of the cameras. There aren't many down in 
this gloomy, misty place, except in the Transfer. But 
we keep well out of their way. 

Under Pollux's guidance we make good time- 
remarkable time, if you compare it to our 
aboveground travel. After about six hours, fatigue 
takes over. It's three in the morning, so I figure we 
still have a few hours before our bodies are discovered 
missing, they search through the rubble of the whole 
block of apartments in case we tried to escape 
through the shafts, and the hunt begins. 

When I suggest we rest, no one objects. Pollux finds a 
small, warm room humming with machines loaded 
with levers and dials. He holds up his fingers to 
indicate we must be gone in four hours. Jackson 
works out a guard schedule, and, since I'm not on the 
first shift, I wedge myself in the tight space between 
Gale and Leeg 1 and go right to sleep. 

It seems like only minutes later when Jackson shakes 
me awake, tells me I'm on watch. It's six o'clock, and 
in one hour we must be on our way. Jackson tells me 
to eat a can of food and keep an eye on Pollux, who's 
insisted on being on guard the entire night. "He can't 
sleep down here." I drag myself into a state of relative 
alertness, eat a can of potato and bean stew, and sit 
against the wall facing the door. Pollux seems wide 
awake. He's probably been reliving those five years of 
imprisonment all night. I get out the Holo and 
manage to input our grid coordinates and scan the 
tunnels. As expected, more pods are registering the 
closer we move toward the center of the Capitol. For a 
while, Pollux and I click around on the Holo, seeing 
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what traps lie where. When my head begins to spin, I 
hand it over to him and lean back against the wall. I 
look down at the sleeping soldiers, crew, and friends, 
and I wonder how many of us will ever see the sun 
again. 

When my eyes fall on Peeta, whose head rests right by 
my feet, I see he's awake. I wish I could read what's 
going on in his mind, that I could go in and untangle 
the mess of lies. Then I settle for something I can 
accomplish. 

"Have you eaten?" I ask. A slight shake of his head 
indicates he hasn't. I open a can of chicken and rice 
soup and hand it to him, keeping the lid in case he 
tries to slit his wrists with it or something. He sits up 
and tilts the can, chugging back the soup without 
really bothering to chew it. The bottom of the can 
reflects the lights from the machines, and I remember 
something that's been itching at the back of my mind 
since yesterday. "Peeta, when you asked about what 
happened to Darius and Lavinia, and Boggs told you 
it was real, you said you thought so. Because there 
was nothing shiny about it. What did you mean?" 

"Oh. I don't know exactly how to explain it," he tells 
me. "In the beginning, everything was just complete 
confusion. Now I can sort certain things out. I think 
there's a pattern emerging. The memories they altered 
with the tracker j acker venom have this strange 
quality about them. Like they're too intense or the 
images aren't stable. You remember what it was like 
when we were stung?" 

"Trees shattered. There were giant colored butterflies. 
I fell in a pit of orange bubbles." I think about it. 
"Shiny orange bubbles." 



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"Right. But nothing about Darius or Lavinia was like 
that. I don't think they'd given me any venom yet," he 
says. 

"Well, that's good, isn't it?" I ask. "If you can separate 
the two, then you can figure out what's true." 

"Yes. And if I could grow wings, I could fly. Only 
people can't grow wings," he says. "Real or not real?" 

"Real," I say. "But people don't need wings to survive." 

"Mockingjays do." He finishes the soup and returns 
the can to me. 

In the fluorescent light, the circles under his eyes 
look like bruises. "There's still time. You should 
sleep." Unresisting, he lies back down, but just stares 
at the needle on one of the dials as it twitches from 
side to side. Slowly, as I would with a wounded 
animal, my hand stretches out and brushes a wave of 
hair from his forehead. He freezes at my touch, but 
doesn't recoil. So I continue to gently smooth back his 
hair. It's the first time I have voluntarily touched him 
since the last arena. 

"You're still trying to protect me. Real or not real," he 
whispers. 

"Real," I answer. It seems to require more 
explanation. "Because that's what you and I do. 
Protect each other." After a minute or so, he drifts off 
to sleep. 

Shortly before seven, Pollux and I move among the 
others, rousing them. There are the usual yawns and 
sighs that accompany waking. But my ears are 
picking up something else, too. Almost like a hissing. 



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Perhaps it's only steam escaping a pipe or the far-off 
whoosh of one of the trains.... 

I hush the group to get a better read on it. There's a 
hissing, yes, but it's not one extended sound. More 
like multiple exhalations that form words. A single 
word. Echoing throughout the tunnels. One word. 
One name. Repeated over and over again. 

"Katniss." 



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The grace period has ended. Perhaps Snow had them 
digging through the night. As soon as the fire died 
down, anyway. They found Boggs's remains, briefly 
felt reassured, and then, as the hours went by 
without further trophies, began to suspect. At some 
point, they realized that they had been tricked. And 
President Snow can't tolerate being made to look like 
a fool. It doesn't matter whether they tracked us to 
the second apartment or assumed we went directly 
underground. They know we are down here now and 
they've unleashed something, a pack of mutts 
probably, bent on finding me. 

"Katniss." I jump at the proximity of the sound. Look 
frantically for its source, bow loaded, seeking a target 
to hit. "Katniss." Peeta's lips are barely moving, but 
there's no doubt, the name came out of him. Just 
when I thought he seemed a little better, when I 
thought he might be inching his way back to me, here 
is proof of how deep Snow's poison went. "Katniss." 
Peeta's programmed to respond to the hissing chorus, 
to join in the hunt. He's beginning to stir. There's no 
choice. I position my arrow to penetrate his brain. 
He'll barely feel a thing. Suddenly, he's sitting up, 
eyes wide in alarm, short of breath. "Katniss!" He 
whips his head toward me but doesn't seem to notice 
my bow, the waiting arrow. "Katniss! Get out of here!" 

I hesitate. His voice is alarmed, but not insane. "Why? 
What's making that sound?" 

"I don't know. Only that it has to kill you," says Peeta. 
"Run! Get out! Go!" 



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After my own moment of confusion, I conclude I do 
not have to shoot him. Relax my bowstring. Take in 
the anxious faces around me. "Whatever it is, it's after 
me. It might be a good time to split up." 

"But we're your guard," says Jackson. 

"And your crew," adds Cressida. 

"I'm not leaving you," Gale says. 

I look at the crew, armed with nothing but cameras 
and clipboards. And there's Finnick with two guns 
and a trident. I suggest that he give one of his guns to 
Castor. Eject the blank cartridge from Peeta's, load it 
with a real one, and arm Pollux. Since Gale and I 
have our bows, we hand our guns over to Messalla 
and Cressida. There's no time to show them anything 
but how to point and pull the trigger, but in close 
quarters, that might be enough. It's better than being 
defenseless. Now the only one without a weapon is 
Peeta, but anyone whispering my name with a bunch 
of mutts doesn't need one anyway. 

We leave the room free of everything but our scent. 
There's no way to erase that at the moment. I'm 
guessing that's how the hissing things are tracking 
us, because we haven't left much of a physical trail. 
The mutts' noses will be abnormally keen, but 
possibly the time we spent slogging through water in 
drainpipes will help throw them. 

Outside the hum of the room, the hissing becomes 
more distinct. But it's also possible to get a better 
sense of the mutts' location. They're behind us, still a 
fair distance. Snow probably had them released 
underground near the place where he found Boggs's 
body. Theoretically, we should have a good lead on 
them, although they're certain to be much faster than 
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we are. My mind wanders to the wolflike creatures in 
the first arena, the monkeys in the Quarter Quell, the 
monstrosities I've witnessed on television over the 
years, and I wonder what form these mutts will take. 
Whatever Snow thinks will scare me the most. 

Pollux and I have worked out a plan for the next leg of 
our journey, and since it heads away from the 
hissing, I see no reason to alter it. If we move swiftly, 
maybe we can reach Snow's mansion before the 
mutts reach us. But there's a sloppiness that comes 
with speed: the poorly placed boot that results in a 
splash, the accidental clang of a gun against a pipe, 
even my own commands, issued too loudly for 
discretion. 

We've covered about three more blocks via an 
overflow pipe and a section of neglected train track 
when the screams begin. Thick, guttural. Bouncing 
off the tunnel walls. 

"Avoxes," says Peeta immediately. "That's what Darius 
sounded like when they tortured him." 

"The mutts must have found them," says Cressida. 

"So they're not just after Katniss," says Leeg 1. 

"They'll probably kill anyone. It's just that they won't 
stop until they get to her," says Gale. After his hours 
studying with Beetee, he is most likely right. 

And here I am again. With people dying because of 
me. Friends, allies, complete strangers, losing their 
lives for the Mockingjay. "Let me go on alone. Lead 
them off. I'll transfer the Holo to Jackson. The rest of 
you can finish the mission." 



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"No one's going to agree to that!" says Jackson in 
exasperation. 

"We're wasting time!" says Finnick. 
"Listen," Peeta whispers. 

The screams have stopped, and in their absence my 
name has rebounded, startling in its proximity. It's 
below as well as behind us now. "Katniss." 

I nudge Pollux on the shoulder and we start to run. 
Trouble is, we had planned to descend to a lower 
level, but that's out now. When we come to the steps 
leading down, Pollux and I are scanning for a possible 
alternative on the Holo when I start gagging. 

"Masks on!" orders Jackson. 

There's no need for masks. Everyone is breathing the 
same air. I'm the only one losing my stew because I'm 
the only one reacting to the odor. Drifting up from the 
stairwell. Cutting through the sewage. Roses. I begin 
to tremble. 

I swerve away from the smell and stumble right out 
onto the Transfer. Smooth, pastel-colored tiled 
streets, just like the ones above, but bordered by 
white brick walls instead of homes. A roadway where 
delivery vehicles can drive with ease, without the 
congestion of the Capitol. Empty now, of everything 
but us. I swing up my bow and blow up the first pod 
with an explosive arrow, which kills the nest of flesh- 
eating rats inside. Then I sprint for the next 
intersection, where I know one false step will cause 
the ground beneath our feet to disintegrate, feeding 
us into something labeled Meat Grinder. I shout a 
warning to the others to stay with me. I plan for us to 



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skirt around the corner and then detonate the Meat 
Grinder, but another unmarked pod lies in wait. 

It happens silently. I would miss it entirely if Finnick 
didn't pull me to a stop. "Katniss!" 

I whip back around, arrow poised for flight, but what 
can be done? Two of Gale's arrows already lie useless 
beside the wide shaft of golden light that radiates 
from ceiling to floor. Inside, Messalla is as still as a 
statue, poised up on the ball of one foot, head tilted 
back, held captive by the beam. I can't tell if he's 
yelling, although his mouth is stretched wide. We 
watch, utterly helpless, as the flesh melts off his body 
like candle wax. 

"Can't help him!" Peeta starts shoving people forward. 
"Can't!" Amazingly, he's the only one still functional 
enough to get us moving. I don't know why he's in 
control, when he should be flipping out and bashing 
my brains in, but that could happen any second. At 
the pressure of his hand against my shoulder, I turn 
away from the grisly thing that was Messalla; I make 
my feet go forward, fast, so fast that I can barely skid 
to a stop before the next intersection. 

A spray of gunfire brings down a shower of plaster. I 
jerk my head from side to side, looking for the pod, 
before I turn and see the squad of Peacekeepers 
pounding down the Transfer toward us. With the 
Meat Grinder pod blocking our way, there's nothing to 
do but fire back. They outnumber us two to one, but 
we've still got six original members of the Star Squad, 
who aren't trying to run and shoot at the same time. 

Fish in a barrel, I think, as blossoms of red stain their 
white uniforms. Three-quarters of them are down and 
dead when more begin to pour in from the side of the 



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tunnel, the same one I flung myself through to get 
away from the smell, from the— 



Those aren't Peacekeepers. 

They are white, four-limbed, about the size of a full- 
grown human, but that's where the comparisons 
stop. Naked, with long reptilian tails, arched backs, 
and heads that jut forward. They swarm over the 
Peacekeepers, living and dead, clamp on to their 
necks with their mouths and rip off the helmeted 
heads. Apparently, having a Capitol pedigree is as 
useless here as it was in 13. It seems to take only 
seconds before the Peacekeepers are decapitated. The 
mutts fall to their bellies and skitter toward us on all 
fours. 

"This way!" I shout, hugging the wall and making a 
sharp right turn to avoid the pod. When everyone's 
joined me, I fire into the intersection, and the Meat 
Grinder activates. Huge mechanical teeth burst 
through the street and chew the tile to dust. That 
should make it impossible for the mutts to follow us, 
but I don't know. The wolf and monkey mutts I've 
encountered could leap unbelievably far. 

The hissing burns my ears, and the reek of roses 
makes the walls spin. 

I grab Pollux's arm. "Forget the mission. What's the 
quickest way aboveground?" 

There's no time for checking the Holo. We follow 
Pollux for about ten yards along the Transfer and go 
through a doorway. I'm aware of tile changing to 
concrete, of crawling through a tight, stinking pipe 
onto a ledge about a foot wide. We're in the main 
sewer. A yard below, a poisonous brew of human 
waste, garbage, and chemical runoff bubbles by us. 



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Parts of the surface are on fire, others emit evil- 
looking clouds of vapor. One look tells you that if you 
fall in, you're never coming out. Moving as quickly as 
we dare on the slippery ledge, we make our way to a 
narrow bridge and cross it. In an alcove at the far 
side, Pollux smacks a ladder with his hand and points 
up the shaft. This is it. Our way out. 

A quick glance at our party tells me something's off. 
"Wait! Where are Jackson and Leeg One?" 

"They stayed at the Grinder to hold the mutts back," 
says Homes. 

"What?" I'm lunging back for the bridge, willing to 
leave no one to those monsters, when he yanks me 
back. 

"Don't waste their lives, Katniss. It's too late for them. 
Look!" Homes nods to the pipe, where the mutts are 
slithering onto the ledge. 

"Stand back!" Gale shouts. With his explosive-tipped 
arrows, he rips the far side of the bridge from its 
foundation. The rest sinks into the bubbles, just as 
the mutts reach it. 

For the first time, I get a good look at them. A mix of 
human and lizard and who knows what else. White, 
tight reptilian skin smeared with gore, clawed hands 
and feet, their faces a mess of conflicting features. 
Hissing, shrieking my name now, as their bodies 
contort in rage. Lashing out with tails and claws, 
taking huge chunks of one another or their own 
bodies with wide, lathered mouths, driven mad by 
their need to destroy me. My scent must be as 
evocative to them as theirs is to me. More so, because 
despite its toxicity, the mutts begin to throw 
themselves into the foul sewer. 



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Along our bank, everyone opens fire. I choose my 
arrows without discretion, sending arrowheads, fire, 
explosives into the mutts' bodies. They're mortal, but 
only just. No natural thing could keep coming with 
two dozen bullets in it. Yes, we can eventually kill 
them, only there are so many, an endless supply 
pouring from the pipe, not even hesitating to take to 
the sewage. 

But it's not their numbers that make my hands shake 
so. 

No mutt is good. All are meant to damage you. Some 
take your life, like the monkeys. Others your reason, 
like the tracker j ackers. However, the true atrocities, 
the most frightening, incorporate a perverse 
psychological twist designed to terrify the victim. The 
sight of the wolf mutts with the dead tributes' eyes. 
The sound of the jabberjays replicating Prim's 
tortured screams. The smell of Snow's roses mixed 
with the victims' blood. Carried across the sewer. 
Cutting through even this foulness. Making my heart 
run wild, my skin turn to ice, my lungs unable to 
suck air. It's as if Snow's breathing right in my face, 
telling me it's time to die. 

The others are shouting at me, but I can't seem to 
respond. Strong arms lift me as I blast the head off a 
mutt whose claws have just grazed my ankle. I'm 
slammed into the ladder. Hands shoved against the 
rungs. Ordered to climb. My wooden, puppet limbs 
obey. Movement slowly brings me back to my senses. 
I detect one person above me. Pollux. Peeta and 
Cressida are below. We reach a platform. Switch to a 
second ladder. Rungs slick with sweat and mildew. At 
the next platform, my head has cleared and the 
reality of what's happened hits me. I begin frantically 
pulling people up off the ladder. Peeta. Cressida. 
That's it. 



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What have I done? What have I abandoned the others 
to? I'm scrambling back down the ladder when one of 
my boots kicks someone. 

"Climb!" Gale barks at me. I'm back up, hauling him 
in, peering into the gloom for more. "No." Gale turns 
my face to him and shakes his head. Uniform 
shredded. Gaping wound in the side of his neck. 

There's a human cry from below. "Someone's still 
alive," I plead. 

"No, Katniss. They're not coming," says Gale. "Only 
the mutts are." 

Unable to accept it, I shine the light from Cressida's 
gun down the shaft. Far below, I can just make out 
Finnick, struggling to hang on as three mutts tear at 
him. As one yanks back his head to take the death 
bite, something bizarre happens. It's as if I'm Finnick, 
watching images of my life flash by. The mast of a 
boat, a silver parachute, Mags laughing, a pink sky, 
Beetee's trident, Annie in her wedding dress, waves 
breaking over rocks. Then it's over. 

I slide the Holo from my belt and choke out 
"nightlock, nightlock, nightlock." Release it. Hunch 
against the wall with the others as the explosion 
rocks the platform and bits of mutt and human flesh 
shoot out of the pipe and shower us. 

There's a clank as Pollux slams a cover over the pipe 
and locks it in place. Pollux, Gale, Cressida, Peeta, 
and me. We're all that's left. Later, the human feelings 
will come. Now I'm conscious only of an animal need 
to keep the remnants of our band alive. "We can't stop 
here." 



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Someone comes up with a bandage. We tie it around 
Gale's neck. Get him to his feet. Only one figure stays 
huddled against the wall. "Peeta," I say. There's no 
response. Has he blacked out? I crouch in front of 
him, pulling his cuffed hands from his face. "Peeta?" 
His eyes are like black pools, the pupils dilated so 
that the blue irises have all but vanished. The 
muscles in his wrists are hard as metal. 

"Leave me," he whispers. "I can't hang on." 

"Yes. You can!" I tell him. 

Peeta shakes his head. "I'm losing it. I'll go mad. Like 
them." 

Like the mutts. Like a rabid beast bent on ripping my 
throat out. And here, finally here in this place, in 
these circumstances, I will really have to kill him. And 
Snow will win. Hot, bitter hatred courses through me. 
Snow has won too much already today. 

It's a long shot, it's suicide maybe, but I do the only 
thing I can think of. I lean in and kiss Peeta full on 
the mouth. His whole body starts shuddering, but I 
keep my lips pressed to his until I have to come up for 
air. My hands slide up his wrists to clasp his. "Don't 
let him take you from me." 

Peeta' s panting hard as he fights the nightmares 
raging in his head. "No. I don't want to..." 

I clench his hands to the point of pain. "Stay with 
me." 

His pupils contract to pinpoints, dilate again rapidly, 
and then return to something resembling normalcy. 
"Always," he murmurs. 



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I help Peeta up and address Pollux. "How far to the 
street?" He indicates it's just above us. I climb the 
last ladder and push open the lid to someone's utility 
room. I'm rising to my feet when a woman throws 
open the door. She wears a bright turquoise silk robe 
embroidered with exotic birds. Her magenta hair's 
fluffed up like a cloud and decorated with gilded 
butterflies. Grease from the half-eaten sausage she's 
holding smears her lipstick. The expression on her 
face says she recognizes me. She opens her mouth to 
call for help. 

Without hesitation, I shoot her through the heart. 



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Who the woman was calling to remains a mystery, 
because after searching the apartment, we find she 
was alone. Perhaps her cry was meant for a nearby 
neighbor, or was simply an expression of fear. At any 
rate, there's no one else to hear her. 

This apartment would be a classy place to hole up in 
for a while, but that's a luxury we can't afford. "How 
long do you think we have before they figure out some 
of us could've survived?" I ask. 

"I think they could be here anytime," Gale answers. 
"They knew we were heading for the streets. Probably 
the explosion will throw them for a few minutes, then 
they'll start looking for our exit point." 

I go to a window that overlooks the street, and when I 
peek through the blinds, I'm not faced with 
Peacekeepers but with a bundled crowd of people 
going about their business. During our underground 
journey, we have left the evacuated zones far behind 
and surfaced in a busy section of the Capitol. This 
crowd offers our only chance of escape. I don't have a 
Holo, but I have Cressida. She joins me at the 
window, confirms she knows our location, and gives 
me the good news that we aren't many blocks from 
the president's mansion. 

One glance at my companions tells me this is no time 
for a stealth attack on Snow. Gale's still losing blood 
from the neck wound, which we haven't even cleaned. 
Peeta's sitting on a velvet sofa with his teeth clamped 
down on a pillow, either fighting off madness or 
containing a scream. Pollux weeps against the mantel 
of an ornate fireplace. Cressida stands determinedly 
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at my side, but she's so pale her lips are bloodless. 
I'm running on hate. When the energy for that ebbs, 
I'll be worthless. 

"Let's check her closets," I say. 

In one bedroom we find hundreds of the woman's 
outfits, coats, pairs of shoes, a rainbow of wigs, 
enough makeup to paint a house. In a bedroom 
across the hall, there's a similar selection for men. 
Perhaps they belong to her husband. Perhaps to a 
lover who had the good luck to be out this morning. 

I call the others to dress. At the sight of Peeta's bloody 
wrists, I dig in my pocket for the handcuff key, but he 
jerks away from me. 

"No," he says. "Don't. They help hold me together." 

"You might need your hands," says Gale. 

"When I feel myself slipping, I dig my wrists into 
them, and the pain helps me focus," says Peeta. I let 
them be. 

Fortunately, it's cold out, so we can conceal most of 
our uniforms and weapons under flowing coats and 
cloaks. We hang our boots around our necks by their 
laces and hide them, pull on silly shoes to replace 
them. The real challenge, of course, is our faces. 
Cressida and Pollux run the risk of being recognized 
by acquaintances, Gale could be familiar from the 
propos and news, and Peeta and I are known by every 
citizen of Panem. We hastily help one another apply 
thick layers of makeup, pull on wigs and sunglasses. 
Cressida wraps scarves over Peeta's and my mouths 
and noses. 



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I can feel the clock ticking away, but stop for just a 
few moments to stuff pockets with food and first-aid 
supplies. "Stay together," I say at the front door. Then 
we march right into the street. Snow flurries have 
begun to fall. Agitated people swirl around us, 
speaking of rebels and hunger and me in their 
affected Capitol accents. We cross the street, pass a 
few more apartments. Just as we turn the corner, 
three dozen Peacekeepers sweep past us. We hop out 
of their way, as the real citizens do, wait until the 
crowd returns to its normal flow, and keep moving. 
"Cressida," I whisper. "Can you think of anywhere?" 

"I'm trying," she says. 

We cover another block, and the sirens begin. 
Through an apartment window, I see an emergency 
report and pictures of our faces flashing. They haven't 
identified who in our party died yet, because I see 
Castor and Finnick among the photos. Soon every 
passerby will be as dangerous as a Peacekeeper. 
"Cressida?" 

"There's one place. It's not ideal. But we can try it," 
she says. We follow her a few more blocks and turn 
through a gate into what looks like a private 
residence. It's some kind of shortcut, though, because 
after walking through a manicured garden, we come 
out of another gate onto a small back street that 
connects two main avenues. There are a few poky 
stores— one that buys used goods, another that sells 
fake jewelry. Only a couple of people are around, and 
they pay no attention to us. Cressida begins to babble 
in a high-pitched voice about fur undergarments, how 
essential they are during the cold months. "Wait until 
you see the prices! Believe me, it's half what you pay 
on the avenues!" 



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We stop before a grimy storefront filled with 
mannequins in furry underwear. The place doesn't 
even look open, but Cressida pushes through the 
front door, setting off a dissonant chiming. Inside the 
dim, narrow shop lined with racks of merchandise, 
the smell of pelts fills my nose. Business must be 
slow, since we're the only customers. Cressida heads 
straight for a hunched figure sitting in the back. I 
follow, trailing my fingers through the soft garments 
as we go. 

Behind a counter sits the strangest person I've ever 
seen. She's an extreme example of surgical 
enhancement gone wrong, for surely not even in the 
Capitol could they find this face attractive. The skin 
has been pulled back tightly and tattooed with black 
and gold stripes. The nose has been flattened until it 
barely exists. I've seen cat whiskers on people in the 
Capitol before, but none so long. The result is a 
grotesque, semi-feline mask, which now squints at us 
distrustfully. 

Cressida takes off her wig, revealing her vines. 
"Tigris," she says. "We need help." 

Tigris. Deep in my brain, the name rings a bell. She 
was a fixture— a younger, less disturbing version of 
herself— in the earliest Hunger Games I can 
remember. A stylist, I think. I don't remember for 
which district. Not 12. Then she must have had one 
operation too many and crossed the line into 
repellence. 

So this is where stylists go when they've outlived their 
use. To sad theme underwear shops where they wait 
for death. Out of the public eye. 

I stare at her face, wondering if her parents actually 
named her Tigris, inspiring her mutilation, or if she 
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chose the style and changed her name to match her 
stripes. 

"Plutarch said you could be trusted," adds Cressida. 

Great, she's one of Plutarch's people. So if her first 
move isn't to turn us in to the Capitol, it will be to 
notify Plutarch, and by extension Coin, of our 
whereabouts. No, Tigris's shop is not ideal, but it's all 
we have at the moment. If she'll even help us. She's 
peering between an old television on her counter and 
us, as if trying to place us. To help her, I pull down 
my scarf, remove my wig, and step closer so that the 
light of the screen falls on my face. 

Tigris gives a low growl, not unlike one Buttercup 
might greet me with. She slinks down off her stool 
and disappears behind a rack of fur-lined leggings. 
There's a sound of sliding, and then her hand 
emerges and waves us forward. Cressida looks at me, 
as if to ask Are you sure? But what choice do we 
have? Returning to the streets under these conditions 
guarantees our capture or death. I push around the 
furs and find Tigris has slid back a panel at the base 
of the wall. Behind it seems to be the top of a steep 
stone stairway. She gestures for me to enter. 

Everything about the situation screams trap. I have a 
moment of panic and find myself turning to Tigris, 
searching those tawny eyes. Why is she doing this? 
She's no Cinna, someone willing to sacrifice herself 
for others. This woman was the embodiment of 
Capitol shallowness. She was one of the stars of the 
Hunger Games until... until she wasn't. So is that it, 
then? Bitterness? Hatred? Revenge? Actually, I'm 
comforted by the idea. A need for revenge can burn 
long and hot. Especially if every glance in a mirror 
reinforces it. 



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"Did Snow ban you from the Games?" I ask. She just 
stares back at me. Somewhere her tiger tail flicks 
with displeasure. "Because I'm going to kill him, you 
know. " Her mouth spreads into what I take for a 
smile. Reassured that this isn't complete madness, I 
crawl through the space. 

About halfway down the steps, my face runs into a 
hanging chain and I pull it, illuminating the hideout 
with a flickering fluorescent bulb. It's a small cellar 
with no doors or windows. Shallow and wide. 
Probably just a strip between two real basements. A 
place whose existence could go unnoticed unless you 
had a very keen eye for dimensions. It's cold and 
dank, with piles of pelts that I'm guessing haven't 
seen the light of day in years. Unless Tigris gives us 
up, I don't believe anyone will find us here. By the 
time I reach the concrete floor, my companions are on 
the steps. The panel slides back in place. I hear the 
underwear rack being adjusted on squeaky wheels. 
Tigris padding back to her stool. We have been 
swallowed up by her store. 

Just in time, too, because Gale looks on the verge of 
collapse. We make a bed of pelts, strip off his layers of 
weapons, and help him onto his back. At the end of 
the cellar, there's a faucet about a foot from the floor 
with a drain under it. I turn the tap and, after much 
sputtering and a lot of rust, clear water begins to 
flow. We clean Gale's neck wound and I realize 
bandages won't be enough. He's going to need a few 
stitches. There's a needle and sterile thread in the 
first-aid supplies, but what we lack is a healer. It 
crosses my mind to enlist Tigris. As a stylist, she 
must know how to work a needle. But that would 
leave no one manning the shop, and she's doing 
enough already. I accept that I'm probably the most 
qualified for the job, grit my teeth, and put in a row of 
jagged sutures. It's not pretty but it's functional. I 
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smear it with medicine and wrap it up. Give him some 
painkillers. "You can rest now. It's safe here," I tell 
him. He goes out like a light. 

While Cressida and Pollux make fur nests for each of 
us, I attend to Peeta's wrists. Gently rinsing away the 
blood, putting on an antiseptic, and bandaging them 
beneath the cuffs. "You've got to keep them clean, 
otherwise the infection could spread and—" 

"I know what blood poisoning is, Katniss," says Peeta. 
"Even if my mother isn't a healer." 

I'm jolted back in time, to another wound, another set 
of bandages. "You said that same thing to me in the 
first Hunger Games. Real or not real?" 

"Real," he says. "And you risked your life getting the 
medicine that saved me?" 

"Real." I shrug. "You were the reason I was alive to do 
it." 

"Was I?" The comment throws him into confusion. 
Some shiny memory must be fighting for his 
attention, because his body tenses and his newly 
bandaged wrists strain against the metal cuffs. Then 
all the energy saps from his body. "I'm so tired, 
Katniss." 

"Go to sleep," I say. He won't until I've rearranged his 
handcuffs and shackled him to one of the stair 
supports. It can't be comfortable, lying there with his 
arms above his head. But in a few minutes, he drifts 
off, too. 

Cressida and Pollux have made beds for us, arranged 
our food and medical supplies, and now ask what I 
want to do about setting up a guard. I look at Gale's 
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pallor, Peeta's restraints. Pollux hasn't slept for days, 
and Cressida and I only napped for a few hours. If a 
troop of Peacekeepers were to come through that 
door, we'd be trapped like rats. We are completely at 
the mercy of a decrepit tiger-woman with what I can 
only hope is an all-consuming passion for Snow's 
death. 

"I don't honestly think there's any point in setting up 
a guard. Let's just try to get some sleep," I say. They 
nod numbly, and we all burrow into our pelts. The 
fire inside me has flickered out, and with it my 
strength. I surrender to the soft, musty fur and 
oblivion. 

I have only one dream I remember. A long and 
wearying thing in which I'm trying to get to District 
12. The home I'm seeking is intact, the people alive. 
Effie Trinket, conspicuous in a bright pink wig and 
tailored outfit, travels with me. I keep trying to ditch 
her in places, but she inexplicably reappears at my 
side, insisting that as my escort she's responsible for 
my staying on schedule. Only the schedule is 
constantly shifting, derailed by our lack of a stamp 
from an official or delayed when Effie breaks one of 
her high heels. We camp for days on a bench in a 
gray station in District 7, awaiting a train that never 
comes. When I wake, somehow I feel even more 
drained by this than my usual nighttime forays into 
blood and terror. 

Cressida, the only person awake, tells me it's late 
afternoon. I eat a can of beef stew and wash it down 
with a lot of water. Then I lean against the cellar wall, 
retracing the events of the last day. Moving death by 
death. Counting them up on my fingers. One, two- 
Mitchell and Boggs lost on the block. Three— Messalla 
melted by the pod. Four, five— Leeg 1 and Jackson 
sacrificing themselves at the Meat Grinder. Six, seven, 
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eight— Castor, Homes, and Finnick being decapitated 
by the rose-scented lizard mutts. Eight dead in 
twenty-four hours. I know it happened, and yet it 
doesn't seem real. Surely, Castor is asleep under that 
pile of furs, Finnick will come bounding down the 
steps in a minute, Boggs will tell me his plan for our 
escape. 

To believe them dead is to accept I killed them. Okay, 
maybe not Mitchell and Boggs— they died on an actual 
assignment. But the others lost their lives defending 
me on a mission I fabricated. My plot to assassinate 
Snow seems so stupid now. So stupid as I sit 
shivering here in this cellar, tallying up our losses, 
fingering the tassels on the silver knee-high boots I 
stole from the woman's home. Oh, yeah— I forgot 
about that. I killed her, too. I'm taking out unarmed 
citizens now. 

I think it's time I give myself up. 

When everyone finally awakens, I confess. How I lied 
about the mission, how I jeopardized everyone in 
pursuit of revenge. There's a long silence after I finish. 
Then Gale says, "Katniss, we all knew you were lying 
about Coin sending you to assassinate Snow." 

"You knew, maybe. The soldiers from Thirteen didn't," 
I reply. 

"Do you really think Jackson believed you had orders 
from Coin?" Cressida asks. "Of course she didn't. But 
she trusted Boggs, and he'd clearly wanted you to go 
on." 

"I never even told Boggs what I planned to do," I say. 



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"You told everyone in Command!" Gale says. "It was 
one of your conditions for being the Mockingjay. 'I kill 
Snow.'" 

Those seem like two disconnected things. Negotiating 
with Coin for the privilege of executing Snow after the 
war and this unauthorized flight through the Capitol. 
"But not like this," I say. "It's been a complete 
disaster." 

"I think it would be considered a highly successful 
mission," says Gale. "We've infiltrated the enemy 
camp, showing that the Capitol's defenses can be 
breached. We've managed to get footage of ourselves 
all over the Capitol's news. We've thrown the whole 
city into chaos trying to find us." 

"Trust me, Plutarch's thrilled," Cressida adds. 

"That's because Plutarch doesn't care who dies," I say. 
"Not as long as his Games are a success." 

Cressida and Gale go round and round trying to 
convince me. Pollux nods at their words to back them 
up. Only Peeta doesn't offer an opinion. 

"What do you think, Peeta?" I finally ask him. 

"I think... you still have no idea. The effect you can 
have." He slides his cuffs up the support and pushes 
himself to a sitting position. "None of the people we 
lost were idiots. They knew what they were doing. 
They followed you because they believed you really 
could kill Snow." 

I don't know why his voice reaches me when no one 
else's can. But if he's right, and I think he is, I owe 
the others a debt that can only be repaid in one way. I 
pull my paper map from a pocket in my uniform and 



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spread it out on the floor with new resolve. "Where are 
we, Cressida?" 

Tigris's shop sits about five blocks from the City 
Circle and Snow's mansion. We're in easy walking 
distance through a zone in which the pods are 
deactivated for the residents' safety. We have 
disguises that, perhaps with some embellishments 
from Tigris's furry stock, could get us safely there. 
But then what? The mansion's sure to be heavily 
guarded, under round-the-clock camera surveillance, 
and laced with pods that could become live at the 
flick of a switch. 

"What we need is to get him out in the open," Gale 
says to me. "Then one of us could pick him off." 

"Does he ever appear in public anymore?" asks Peeta. 

"I don't think so," says Cressida. "At least in all the 
recent speeches I've seen, he's been in the mansion. 
Even before the rebels got here. I imagine he became 
more vigilant after Finnick aired his crimes." 

That's right. It's not just the Tigrises of the Capitol 
who hate Snow now, but a web of people who know 
what he did to their friends and families. It would 
have to be something bordering on miraculous to lure 
him out. Something like... 

"I bet he'd come out for me," I say. "If I were captured. 
He'd want that as public as possible. He'd want my 
execution on his front steps." I let this sink in. "Then 
Gale could shoot him from the audience." 

"No." Peeta shakes his head. "There are too many 
alternative endings to that plan. Snow might decide to 
keep you and torture information out of you. Or have 
you executed publicly without being present. Or kill 



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you inside the mansion and display your body out 
front." 



"Gale?" I say. 

"It seems like an extreme solution to jump to 
immediately," he says. "Maybe if all else fails. Let's 
keep thinking." 

In the quiet that follows, we hear Tigris's soft footfall 
overhead. It must be closing time. She's locking up, 
fastening the shutters maybe. A few minutes later, 
the panel at the top of the stairs slides open. 

"Come up," says a gravelly voice. "I have some food for 
you." It's the first time she's talked since we arrived. 
Whether it's natural or from years of practice, I don't 
know, but there's something in her manner of 
speaking that suggests a cat's purr. 

As we climb the stairs, Cressida asks, "Did you 
contact Plutarch, Tigris?" 

"No way to." Tigris shrugs. "He'll figure out you're in a 
safe house. Don't worry." 

Worry? I feel immensely relieved by the news that I 
won't be given— and have to ignore— direct orders from 
13. Or make up some viable defense for the decisions 
I've made over the last couple of days. 

In the shop, the counter holds some stale hunks of 
bread, a wedge of moldy cheese, and half a bottle of 
mustard. It reminds me that not everyone in the 
Capitol has full stomachs these days. I feel obliged to 
tell Tigris about our remaining food supplies, but she 
waves my objections away. "I eat next to nothing," she 
says. "And then, only raw meat." This seems a little 
too in character, but I don't question it. I just scrape 



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the mold off the cheese and divide up the food among 
the rest of us. 

While we eat, we watch the latest Capitol news 
coverage. The government has the rebel survivors 
narrowed down to the five of us. Huge bounties are 
offered for information leading to our capture. They 
emphasize how dangerous we are. Show us 
exchanging gunfire with the Peacekeepers, although 
not the mutts ripping off their heads. Do a tragic 
tribute to the woman lying where we left her, with my 
arrow still in her heart. Someone has redone her 
makeup for the cameras. 

The rebels let the Capitol broadcast run on 
uninterrupted. "Have the rebels made a statement 
today?" I ask Tigris. She shakes her head. "I doubt 
Coin knows what to do with me now that I'm still 
alive." 

Tigris gives a throaty cackle. "No one knows what to 
do with you, girlie." Then she makes me take a pair of 
the fur leggings even though I can't pay her for them. 
It's the kind of gift you have to accept. And anyway, 
it's cold in that cellar. 

Downstairs after supper, we continue to rack our 
brains for a plan. Nothing good comes up, but we do 
agree that we can no longer go out as a group of five 
and that we should try to infiltrate the president's 
mansion before I turn myself into bait. I consent to 
that second point to avoid further argument. If I do 
decide to give myself up, it won't require anyone else's 
permission or participation. 

We change bandages, handcuff Peeta back to his 
support, and settle down to sleep. A few hours later, I 
slip back into consciousness and become aware of a 



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quiet conversation. Peeta and Gale. I can't stop myself 
from eavesdropping. 

"Thanks for the water," Peeta says. 

"No problem," Gale replies. "I wake up ten times a 
night anyway." 

"To make sure Katniss is still here?" asks Peeta. 

"Something like that," Gale admits. 

There's a long pause before Peeta speaks again. "That 
was funny, what Tigris said. About no one knowing 
what to do with her." 

"Well, we never have," Gale says. 

They both laugh. It's so strange to hear them talking 
like this. Almost like friends. Which they're not. Never 
have been. Although they're not exactly enemies. 

"She loves you, you know," says Peeta. "She as good 
as told me after they whipped you." 

"Don't believe it," Gale answers. "The way she kissed 
you in the Quarter Quell... well, she never kissed me 
like that." 

"It was just part of the show," Peeta tells him, 
although there's an edge of doubt in his voice. 

"No, you won her over. Gave up everything for her. 
Maybe that's the only way to convince her you love 
her." There's a long pause. "I should have volunteered 
to take your place in the first Games. Protected her 
then." 



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"You couldn't," says Peeta. "She'd never have forgiven 
you. You had to take care of her family. They matter 
more to her than her life." 

"Well, it won't be an issue much longer. I think it's 
unlikely all three of us will be alive at the end of the 
war. And if we are, I guess it's Katniss's problem. Who 
to choose." Gale yawns. "We should get some sleep." 

"Yeah." I hear Peeta's handcuffs slide down the 
support as he settles in. "I wonder how she'll make up 
her mind." 

"Oh, that I do know." I can just catch Gale's last 
words through the layer of fur. "Katniss will pick 
whoever she thinks she can't survive without." 



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A chill runs through me. Am I really that cold and 
calculating? Gale didn't say, "Katniss will pick 
whoever it will break her heart to give up," or even 
"whoever she can't live without." Those would have 
implied I was motivated by a kind of passion. But my 
best friend predicts I will choose the person who I 
think I "can't survive without." There's not the least 
indication that love, or desire, or even compatibility 
will sway me. I'll just conduct an unfeeling 
assessment of what my potential mates can offer me. 
As if in the end, it will be the question of whether a 
baker or a hunter will extend my longevity the most. 
It's a horrible thing for Gale to say, for Peeta not to 
refute. Especially when every emotion I have has been 
taken and exploited by the Capitol or the rebels. At 
the moment, the choice would be simple. I can 
survive just fine without either of them. 

In the morning, I have no time or energy to nurse 
wounded feelings. During a predawn breakfast of liver 
pate and fig cookies, we gather around Tigris's 
television for one of Beetee's break-ins. There's been a 
new development in the war. Apparently inspired by 
the black wave, some enterprising rebel commander 
came up with the idea of confiscating people's 
abandoned automobiles and sending them unmanned 
down the streets. The cars don't trigger every pod, but 
they certainly get the majority. At around four in the 
morning, the rebels began carving three separate 
paths— simply referred to as the A, B, and C lines— to 
the Capitol's heart. As a result, they've secured block 
after block with very few casualties. 



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"This can't last," says Gale. "In fact I'm surprised 
they've kept it going so long. The Capitol will adjust 
by deactivating specific pods and then manually 
triggering them when their targets come in range." 
Almost within minutes of his prediction, we see this 
very thing happen on-screen. A squad sends a car 
down a block, setting off four pods. All seems well. 
Three scouts follow and make it safely to the end of 
the street. But when a group of twenty rebel soldiers 
follow them, they're blown to bits by a row of potted 
rosebushes in front of a flower shop. 

"I bet it's killing Plutarch not to be in the control room 
on this one," says Peeta. 

Beetee gives the broadcast back to the Capitol, where 
a grim-faced reporter announces the blocks that 
civilians are to evacuate. Between her update and the 
previous story, I am able to mark my paper map to 
show the relative positions of the opposing armies. 

I hear scuffling out on the street, move to the 
windows, and peek out a crack in the shutters. In the 
early morning light, I see a bizarre spectacle. Refugees 
from the now occupied blocks are streaming toward 
the Capitol's center. The most panicked are wearing 
nothing but nightgowns and slippers, while the more 
prepared are heavily bundled in layers of clothes. 
They carry everything from lapdogs to jewelry boxes to 
potted plants. One man in a fluffy robe holds only an 
overripe banana. Confused, sleepy children stumble 
along after their parents, most either too stunned or 
too baffled to cry. Bits of them flash by my line of 
vision. A pair of wide brown eyes. An arm clutching a 
favorite doll. A pair of bare feet, bluish in the cold, 
catching on the uneven paving stones of the alley. 
Seeing them reminds me of the children of 12 who 
died fleeing the firebombs. I leave the window. 



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Tigris offers to be our spy for the day since she's the 
only one of us without a bounty on her head. After 
securing us downstairs, she goes out into the Capitol 
to pick up any helpful information. 

Down in the cellar I pace back and forth, driving the 
others crazy. Something tells me that not taking 
advantage of the flood of refugees is a mistake. What 
better cover could we have? On the other hand, every 
displaced person milling about on the streets means 
another pair of eyes looking for the five rebels on the 
loose. Then again, what do we gain by staying here? 
All we're really doing is depleting our small cache of 
food and waiting for. . .what? The rebels to take the 
Capitol? It could be weeks before that happens, and 
I'm not so sure what I'd do if they did. Not run out 
and greet them. Coin would have me whisked back to 
13 before I could say "nightlock, nightlock, nightlock." 
I did not come all this way, and lose all those people, 
to turn myself over to that woman. I kill Snow. 
Besides, there would be an awful lot of things I 
couldn't easily explain about the last few days. 
Several of which, if they came to light, would probably 
blow my deal for the victors' immunity right out of the 
water. And forget about me, I've got a feeling some of 
the others are going to need it. Like Peeta. Who, no 
matter how you spin it, can be seen on tape tossing 
Mitchell into that net pod. I can imagine what Coin's 
war tribunal will do with that. 

By late afternoon, we're beginning to get uneasy 
about Tigris's long absence. Talk turns to the 
possibilities that she has been apprehended and 
arrested, turned us in voluntarily, or simply been 
injured in the wave of refugees. But around six 
o'clock we hear her return. There's some shuffling 
around upstairs, then she opens the panel. The 
wonderful smell of frying meat fills the air. Tigris has 
prepared us a hash of chopped ham and potatoes. It's 
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the first hot food we've had in days, and as I wait for 
her to fill my plate, I'm in danger of actually drooling. 

As I chew, I try to pay attention to Tigris telling us 
how she acquired it, but the main thing I absorb is 
that fur underwear is a valuable trading item at the 
moment. Especially for people who left their homes 
underdressed. Many are still out on the street, trying 
to find shelter for the night. Those who live in the 
choice apartments of the inner city have not flung 
open their doors to house the displaced. On the 
contrary, most of them bolted their locks, drew their 
shutters, and pretended to be out. Now the City 
Circle's packed with refugees, and the Peacekeepers 
are going door to door, breaking into places if they 
have to, to assign houseguests. 

On the television, we watch a terse Head Peacekeeper 
lay out specific rules regarding how many people per 
square foot each resident will be expected to take in. 
He reminds the citizens of the Capitol that 
temperatures will drop well below freezing tonight and 
warns them that their president expects them to be 
not only willing but enthusiastic hosts in this time of 
crisis. Then they show some very staged-looking shots 
of concerned citizens welcoming grateful refugees into 
their homes. The Head Peacekeeper says the 
president himself has ordered part of his mansion 
readied to receive citizens tomorrow. He adds that 
shopkeepers should also be prepared to lend their 
floor space if requested. 

"Tigris, that could be you," says Peeta. I realize he's 
right. That even this narrow hallway of a shop could 
be appropriated as the numbers swell. Then we'll be 
truly trapped in the cellar, in constant danger of 
discovery. How many days do we have? One? Maybe 
two? 



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The Head Peacekeeper comes back with more 
instructions for the population. It seems that this 
evening there was an unfortunate incident where a 
crowd beat to death a young man who resembled 
Peeta. Henceforth, all rebel sightings are to be 
reported immediately to authorities, who will deal 
with the identification and arrest of the suspect. They 
show a photo of the victim. Apart from some 
obviously bleached curls, he looks about as much like 
Peeta as I do. 

"People have gone wild," Cressida murmurs. 

We watch a brief rebel update in which we learn that 
several more blocks have been taken today. I make 
note of the intersections on my map and study it. 
"Line C is only four blocks from here," I announce. 
Somehow that fills me with more anxiety than the 
idea of Peacekeepers looking for housing. I become 
very helpful. "Let me wash the dishes." 

"I'll give you a hand." Gale collects the plates. 

I feel Peeta's eyes follow us out of the room. In the 
cramped kitchen at the back of Tigris's shop, I fill the 
sink with hot water and suds. "Do you think it's 
true?" I ask. "That Snow will let refugees into the 
mansion?" 

"I think he has to now, at least for the cameras," says 
Gale. 

"I'm leaving in the morning," I say. 

"I'm going with you," Gale says. "What should we do 
with the others?" 



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"Pollux and Cressida could be useful. They're good 
guides," I say. Pollux and Cressida aren't actually the 
problem. "But Peeta's too..." 

"Unpredictable," finishes Gale. "Do you think he'd still 
let us leave him behind?" 

"We can make the argument that he'll endanger us," I 
say. "He might stay here, if we're convincing." 

Peeta's fairly rational about our suggestion. He readily 
agrees that his company could put the other four of 
us at risk. I'm thinking this may all work out, that he 
can just sit out the war in Tigris's cellar, when he 
announces he's going out on his own. 

"To do what?" asks Cressida. 

"I'm not sure exactly. The one thing that I might still 
be useful at is causing a diversion. You saw what 
happened to that man who looked like me," he says. 

"What if you... lose control?" I say. 

"You mean... go mutt? Well, if I feel that coming on, I'll 
try to get back here," he assures me. 

"And if Snow gets you again?" asks Gale. "You don't 
even have a gun." 

"I'll just have to take my chances," says Peeta. "Like 
the rest of you." The two exchange a long look, and 
then Gale reaches into his breast pocket. He places 
his nightlock tablet in Peeta's hand. Peeta lets it lie on 
his open palm, neither rejecting nor accepting it. 
"What about you?" 

"Don't worry. Beetee showed me how to detonate my 
explosive arrows by hand. If that fails, I've got my 



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knife. And I'll have Katniss," says Gale with a smile. 
"She won't give them the satisfaction of taking me 
alive." 

The thought of Peacekeepers dragging Gale away 
starts the tune playing in my head again.... 

Are you, are you 
Coming to the tree 

"Take it, Peeta," I say in a strained voice. I reach out 
and close his fingers over the pill. "No one will be 
there to help you." 

We spend a fitful night, woken by one another's 
nightmares, minds buzzing with the next day's plans. 
I'm relieved when five o'clock rolls around and we can 
begin whatever this day holds for us. We eat a 
mishmash of our remaining food— canned peaches, 
crackers, and snails— leaving one can of salmon for 
Tigris as meager thanks for all she's done. The 
gesture seems to touch her in some way. Her face 
contorts in an odd expression and she flies into 
action. She spends the next hour remaking the five of 
us. She redresses us so regular clothes hide our 
uniforms before we even don our coats and cloaks. 
Covers our military boots with some sort of furry 
slippers. Secures our wigs with pins. Cleans off the 
garish remains of the paint we so hastily applied to 
our faces and makes us up again. Drapes our 
outerwear to conceal our weapons. Then gives us 
handbags and bundles of knickknacks to carry. In 
the end, we look exactly like the refugees fleeing the 
rebels. 

"Never underestimate the power of a brilliant stylist," 
says Peeta. It's hard to tell, but I think Tigris might 
actually blush under her stripes. 



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There are no helpful updates on the television, but 
the alley seems as thick with refugees as the previous 
morning. Our plan is to slip into the crowd in three 
groups. First Cressida and Pollux, who will act as 
guides while keeping a safe lead on us. Then Gale and 
myself, who intend to position ourselves among the 
refugees assigned to the mansion today. Then Peeta, 
who will trail behind us, ready to create a disturbance 
as needed. 

Tigris watches through the shutters for the right 
moment, unbolts the door, and nods to Cressida and 
Pollux. "Take care," Cressida says, and they are gone. 

We'll be following in a minute. I get out the key, 
unlock Peeta' s cuffs, and stuff them in my pocket. He 
rubs his wrists. Flexes them. I feel a kind of 
desperation rising up in me. It's like I'm back in the 
Quarter Quell, with Beetee giving Johanna and me 
that coil of wire. 

"Listen," I say. "Don't do anything foolish." 

"No. It's last-resort stuff. Completely," he says. 

I wrap my arms around his neck, feel his arms 
hesitate before they embrace me. Not as steady as 
they once were, but still warm and strong. A 
thousand moments surge through me. All the times 
these arms were my only refuge from the world. 
Perhaps not fully appreciated then, but so sweet in 
my memory, and now gone forever. "All right, then." I 
release him. 

"It's time," says Tigris. I kiss her cheek, fasten my red 
hooded cloak, pull my scarf up over my nose, and 
follow Gale out into the frigid air. 



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Sharp, icy snowflakes bite my exposed skin. The 
rising sun's trying to break through the gloom 
without much success. There's enough light to see 
the bundled forms closest to you and little more. 
Perfect conditions, really, except that I can't locate 
Cressida and Pollux. Gale and I drop our heads and 
shuffle along with the refugees. I can hear what I 
missed peeking through the shutters yesterday. 
Crying, moaning, labored breathing. And, not too far 
away, gunfire. 

"Where are we going, Uncle?" a shivering little boy 
asks a man weighed down with a small safe. 

"To the president's mansion. They'll assign us a new 
place to live," puffs the man. 

We turn off the alley and spill out onto one of the 
main avenues. "Stay to the right!" a voice orders, and 
I see the Peacekeepers interspersed throughout the 
crowd, directing the flow of human traffic. Scared 
faces peer out of the plate-glass windows of the 
shops, which are already becoming overrun with 
refugees. At this rate, Tigris may have new 
houseguests by lunch. It was good for everybody that 
we got out when we did. 

It's brighter now, even with the snow picking up. I 
catch sight of Cressida and Pollux about thirty yards 
ahead of us, plodding along with the crowd. I crane 
my head around to see if I can locate Peeta. I can't, 
but I've caught the eye of an inquisitive-looking little 
girl in a lemon yellow coat. I nudge Gale and slow my 
pace ever so slightly, to allow a wall of people to form 
between us. 

"We might need to split up," I say under my breath. 
"There's a girl-" 



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Gunfire rips through the crowd, and several people 
near me slump to the ground. Screams pierce the air 
as a second round mows down another group behind 
us. Gale and I drop to the street, scuttle the ten yards 
to the shops, and take cover behind a display of 
spike-heeled boots outside a shoe seller's. 

A row of feathery footwear blocks Gale's view. "Who is 
it? Can you see?" he asks me. What I can see, 
between alternating pairs of lavender and mint green 
leather boots, is a street full of bodies. The little girl 
who was watching me kneels beside a motionless 
woman, screeching and trying to rouse her. Another 
wave of bullets slices across the chest of her yellow 
coat, staining it with red, knocking the girl onto her 
back. For a moment, looking at her tiny crumpled 
form, I lose my ability to form words. Gale prods me 
with his elbow. "Katniss?" 

"They're shooting from the roof above us," I tell Gale. I 
watch a few more rounds, see the white uniforms 
dropping into the snowy streets. "Trying to take out 
the Peacekeepers, but they're not exactly crack shots. 
It must be the rebels." I don't feel a rush of joy, 
although theoretically my allies have broken through. 
I am transfixed by that lemon yellow coat. 

"If we start shooting, that's it," Gale says. "The whole 
world will know it's us." 

It's true. We're armed only with our fabulous bows. To 
release an arrow would be like announcing to both 
sides that we're here. 

"No," I say forcefully. "We've got to get to Snow." 

"Then we better start moving before the whole block 
goes up," says Gale. Hugging the wall, we continue 
along the street. Only the wall is mostly 
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shopwindows. A pattern of sweaty palms and gaping 
faces presses against the glass. I yank my scarf up 
higher over my cheekbones as we dart between 
outdoor displays. Behind a rack of framed photos of 
Snow, we encounter a wounded Peacekeeper propped 
against a strip of brick wall. He asks us for help. Gale 
knees him in the side of the head and takes his gun. 
At the intersection, he shoots a second Peacekeeper 
and we both have firearms. 

"So who are we supposed to be now?" I ask. 

"Desperate citizens of the Capitol," says Gale. "The 
Peacekeepers will think we're on their side, and 
hopefully the rebels have more interesting targets." 

I'm mulling over the wisdom of this latest role as we 
sprint across the intersection, but by the time we 
reach the next block, it no longer matters who we are. 
Who anyone is. Because no one is looking at faces. 
The rebels are here, all right. Pouring onto the 
avenue, taking cover in doorways, behind vehicles, 
guns blazing, hoarse voices shouting commands as 
they prepare to meet an army of Peacekeepers 
marching toward us. Caught in the cross fire are the 
refugees, unarmed, disoriented, many wounded. 

A pod's activated ahead of us, releasing a gush of 
steam that parboils everyone in its path, leaving the 
victims intestine-pink and very dead. After that, what 
little sense of order there was unravels. As the 
remaining curlicues of steam intertwine with the 
snow, visibility extends just to the end of my barrel. 
Peacekeeper, rebel, citizen, who knows? Everything 
that moves is a target. People shoot reflexively, and 
I'm no exception. Heart pounding, adrenaline burning 
through me, everyone is my enemy. Except Gale. My 
hunting partner, the one person who has my back. 
There's nothing to do but move forward, killing 
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whoever comes into our path. Screaming people, 
bleeding people, dead people everywhere. As we reach 
the next corner, the entire block ahead of us lights up 
with a rich purple glow. We backpedal, hunker down 
in a stairwell, and squint into the light. Something's 
happening to those illuminated by it. They're 
assaulted by. . .what? A sound? A wave? A laser? 
Weapons fall from their hands, fingers clutch their 
faces, as blood sprays from all visible orifices— eyes, 
noses, mouths, ears. In less than a minute, 
everyone's dead and the glow vanishes. I grit my teeth 
and run, leaping over the bodies, feet slipping in the 
gore. The wind whips the snow into blinding swirls 
but doesn't block out the sound of another wave of 
boots headed our way. 

"Get down!" I hiss at Gale. We drop where we are. My 
face lands in a still-warm pool of someone's blood, 
but I play dead, remain motionless as the boots 
march over us. Some avoid the bodies. Others grind 
into my hand, my back, kick my head in passing. As 
the boots recede, I open my eyes and nod to Gale. 

On the next block, we encounter more terrified 
refugees, but few soldiers. Just when it seems we 
might have caught a break, there's a cracking sound, 
like an egg hitting the side of a bowl but magnified a 
thousand times. We stop, look around for the pod. 
There's nothing. Then I feel the tips of my boots 
beginning to tilt ever so slightly. "Run!" I cry to Gale. 
There's no time to explain, but in a few seconds the 
nature of the pod becomes clear to everyone. A seam 
has opened up down the center of the block. The two 
sides of the tiled street are folding down like flaps, 
slowly emptying the people into whatever lies 
beneath. 

I'm torn between making a beeline for the next 
intersection and trying to get to the doors that line 
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the street and break my way into a building. As a 
result, I end up moving at a slight diagonal. As the 
flap continues to drop, I find my feet scrambling, 
harder and harder, to find purchase on the slippery 
tiles. It's like running along the side of an icy hill that 
gets steeper at every step. Both of my destinations— 
the intersection and the buildings— are a few feet 
away when I feel the flap going. There's nothing to do 
but use my last seconds of connection to the tiles to 
push off for the intersection. As my hands latch on to 
the side, I realize the flaps have swung straight down. 
My feet dangle in the air, no foothold anywhere. From 
fifty feet below, a vile stench hits my nose, like rotted 
corpses in the summer heat. Black forms crawl 
around in the shadows, silencing whoever survives 
the fall. 

A strangled cry comes from my throat. No one is 
coming to help me. I'm losing my grip on the icy 
ledge, when I see I'm only about six feet from the 
corner of the pod. I inch my hands along the ledge, 
trying to block out the terrifying sounds from below. 
When my hands straddle the corner, I swing my right 
boot up over the side. It catches on something and I 
painstakingly drag myself up to street level. Panting, 
trembling, I crawl out and wrap my arm around a 
lamppost for an anchor, although the ground's 
perfectly flat. 

"Gale?" I call into the abyss, heedless of being 
recognized. "Gale?" 

"Over here!" I look in bewilderment to my left. The flap 
held up everything to the very base of the buildings. A 
dozen or so people made it that far and now hang 
from whatever provides a handhold. Doorknobs, 
knockers, mail slots. Three doors down from me, Gale 
clings to the decorative iron grating around an 
apartment door. He could easily get inside if it was 
329 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



open. But despite repeated kicks to the door, no one 
comes to his aid. 

"Cover yourself!" I lift my gun. He turns away and I 
drill the lock until the door flies inward. Gale swings 
into the doorway, landing in a heap on the floor. For a 
moment, I experience the elation of his rescue. Then 
the white-gloved hands clamp down on him. 

Gale meets my eyes, mouths something at me I can't 
make out. I don't know what to do. I can't leave him, 
but I can't reach him either. His lips move again. I 
shake my head to indicate my confusion. At any 
minute, they'll realize who they've captured. The 
Peacekeepers are hauling him inside now. "Go!" I hear 
him yell. 

I turn and run away from the pod. All alone now. Gale 
a prisoner. Cressida and Pollux could be dead ten 
times over. And Peeta? I haven't laid eyes on him 
since we left Tigris's. I hold on to the idea that he may 
have gone back. Felt an attack coming and retreated 
to the cellar while he still had control. Realized there 
was no need for a diversion when the Capitol has 
provided so many. No need to be bait and have to 
take the nightlock— the nightlock! Gale doesn't have 
any. And as for all that talk of detonating his arrows 
by hand, he'll never get the chance. The first thing the 
Peacekeepers will do is to strip him of his weapons. 

I fall into a doorway, tears stinging my eyes. Shoot 
me. That's what he was mouthing. I was supposed to 
shoot him! That was my job. That was our unspoken 
promise, all of us, to one another. And I didn't do it 
and now the Capitol will kill him or torture him or 
hijack him or— the cracks begin opening inside me, 
threatening to break me into pieces. I have only one 
hope. That the Capitol falls, lays down its arms, and 



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gives up its prisoners before they hurt Gale. But I 
can't see that happening while Snow's alive. 



A pair of Peacekeepers runs by, barely glancing at the 
whimpering Capitol girl huddled in a doorway. I choke 
down my tears, wipe the existing ones off my face 
before they can freeze, and pull myself back together. 
Okay, I'm still an anonymous refugee. Or did the 
Peacekeepers who caught Gale get a glimpse of me as 
I fled? I remove my cloak and turn it inside out, 
letting the black lining show instead of the red 
exterior. Arrange the hood so it conceals my face. 
Grasping my gun close to my chest, I survey the 
block. There's only a handful of dazed-looking 
stragglers. I trail close behind a pair of old men who 
take no notice of me. No one will expect me to be with 
old men. When we reach the end of the next 
intersection, they stop and I almost bump into them. 
It's the City Circle. Across the wide expanse ringed by 
grand buildings sits the president's mansion. 

The Circle's full of people milling around, wailing, or 
just sitting and letting the snow pile up around them. 
I fit right in. I begin to weave my way across to the 
mansion, tripping over abandoned treasures and 
snow-frosted limbs. About halfway there, I become 
aware of the concrete barricade. It's about four feet 
high and extends in a large rectangle in front of the 
mansion. You would think it would be empty, but it's 
packed with refugees. Maybe this is the group that's 
been chosen to be sheltered at the mansion? But as I 
draw closer, I notice something else. Everyone inside 
the barricade is a child. Toddlers to teenagers. Scared 
and frostbitten. Huddled in groups or rocking numbly 
on the ground. They aren't being led into the 
mansion. They're penned in, guarded on all sides by 
Peacekeepers. I know immediately it's not for their 
protection. If the Capitol wanted to safeguard them, 
they'd be down in a bunker somewhere. This is for 



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Snow's protection. The children form his human 
shield. 

There's a commotion and the crowd surges to the left. 
I'm caught up by larger bodies, borne sideways, 
carried off course. I hear shouts of "The rebels! The 
rebels!" and know they must've broken through. The 
momentum slams me into a flagpole and I cling to it. 
Using the rope that hangs from the top, I pull myself 
up out of the crush of bodies. Yes, I can see the rebel 
army pouring into the Circle, driving the refugees 
back onto the avenues. I scan the area for the pods 
that will surely be detonating. But that doesn't 
happen. This is what happens: 

A hovercraft marked with the Capitol's seal 
materializes directly over the barricaded children. 
Scores of silver parachutes rain down on them. Even 
in this chaos, the children know what silver 
parachutes contain. Food. Medicine. Gifts. They 
eagerly scoop them up, frozen fingers struggling with 
the strings. The hovercraft vanishes, five seconds 
pass, and then about twenty parachutes 
simultaneously explode. 

A wail rises from the crowd. The snow's red and 
littered with undersized body parts. Many of the 
children die immediately, but others lie in agony on 
the ground. Some stagger around mutely, staring at 
the remaining silver parachutes in their hands, as if 
they still might have something precious inside. I can 
tell the Peacekeepers didn't know this was coming by 
the way they are yanking away the barricades, 
making a path to the children. Another flock of white 
uniforms sweeps into the opening. But these aren't 
Peacekeepers. They're medics. Rebel medics. I'd know 
the uniforms anywhere. They swarm in among the 
children, wielding medical kits. 



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First I get a glimpse of the blond braid down her back. 
Then, as she yanks off her coat to cover a wailing 
child, I notice the duck tail formed by her untucked 
shirt. I have the same reaction I did the day Effie 
Trinket called her name at the reaping. At least, I 
must go limp, because I find myself at the base of the 
flagpole, unable to account for the last few seconds. 
Then I am pushing through the crowd, just as I did 
before. Trying to shout her name above the roar. I'm 
almost there, almost to the barricade, when I think 
she hears me. Because for just a moment, she 
catches sight of me, her lips form my name. 

And that's when the rest of the parachutes go off. 



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Real or not real? I am on fire. The balls of flame that 
erupted from the parachutes shot over the barricades, 
through the snowy air, and landed in the crowd. I was 
just turning away when one caught me, ran its 
tongue up the back of my body, and transformed me 
into something new. A creature as unquenchable as 
the sun. 

A fire mutt knows only a single sensation: agony. No 
sight, no sound, no feeling except the unrelenting 
burning of flesh. Perhaps there are periods of 
unconsciousness, but what can it matter if I can't 
find refuge in them? I am Cinna's bird, ignited, flying 
frantically to escape something inescapable. The 
feathers of flame that grow from my body. Beating my 
wings only fans the blaze. I consume myself, but to no 
end. 

Finally, my wings begin to falter, I lose height, and 
gravity pulls me into a foamy sea the color of 
Finnick's eyes. I float on my back, which continues to 
burn beneath the water, but the agony quiets to pain. 
When I am adrift and unable to navigate, that's when 
they come. The dead. 

The ones I loved fly as birds in the open sky above 
me. Soaring, weaving, calling to me to join them. I 
want so badly to follow them, but the seawater 
saturates my wings, making it impossible to lift them. 
The ones I hated have taken to the water, horrible 
scaled things that tear my salty flesh with needle 
teeth. Biting again and again. Dragging me beneath 
the surface. 



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The small white bird tinged in pink dives down, 
buries her claws in my chest, and tries to keep me 
afloat. "No, Katniss! No! You can't go!" 



But the ones I hated are winning, and if she clings to 
me, she'll be lost as well. "Prim, let go!" And finally 
she does. 

Deep in the water, I'm deserted by all. There's only 
the sound of my breathing, the enormous effort it 
takes to draw the water in, push it out of my lungs. I 
want to stop, I try to hold my breath, but the sea 
forces its way in and out against my will. "Let me die. 
Let me follow the others," I beg whatever holds me 
here. There's no response. 

Trapped for days, years, centuries maybe. Dead, but 
not allowed to die. Alive, but as good as dead. So 
alone that anyone, anything no matter how loathsome 
would be welcome. But when I finally have a visitor, 
it's sweet. Morphling. Coursing through my veins, 
easing the pain, lightening my body so that it rises 
back toward the air and rests again on the foam. 

Foam. I really am floating on foam. I can feel it 
beneath the tips of my fingers, cradling parts of my 
naked body. There's much pain but there's also 
something like reality. The sandpaper of my throat. 
The smell of burn medicine from the first arena. The 
sound of my mother's voice. These things frighten me, 
and I try to return to the deep to make sense of them. 
But there's no going back. Gradually, I'm forced to 
accept who I am. A badly burned girl with no wings. 
With no fire. And no sister. 

In the dazzling white Capitol hospital, the doctors 
work their magic on me. Draping my rawness in new 
sheets of skin. Coaxing the cells into thinking they 
are my own. Manipulating my body parts, bending 



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and stretching the limbs to assure a good fit. I hear 
over and over again how lucky I am. My eyes were 
spared. Most of my face was spared. My lungs are 
responding to treatment. I will be as good as new. 

When my tender skin has toughened enough to 
withstand the pressure of sheets, more visitors arrive. 
The morphling opens the door to the dead and alive 
alike. Haymitch, yellow and unsmiling. Cinna, 
stitching a new wedding dress. Delly, prattling on 
about the niceness of people. My father sings all four 
stanzas of "The Hanging Tree" and reminds me that 
my mother— who sleeps in a chair between shifts— 
isn't to know about it. 

One day I awake to expectations and know I will not 
be allowed to live in my dreamland. I must take food 
by mouth. Move my own muscles. Make my way to 
the bathroom. A brief appearance by President Coin 
clinches it. 

"Don't worry," she says. "I've saved him for you." 

The doctors' puzzlement grows over why I'm unable to 
speak. Many tests are done, and while there's damage 
to my vocal cords, it doesn't account for it. Finally, 
Dr. Aurelius, a head doctor, comes up with the theory 
that I've become a mental, rather than physical, Avox. 
That my silence has been brought on by emotional 
trauma. Although he's presented with a hundred 
proposed remedies, he tells them to leave me alone. 
So I don't ask about anyone or anything, but people 
bring me a steady stream of information. On the war: 
The Capitol fell the day the parachutes went off, 
President Coin leads Panem now, and troops have 
been sent out to put down the small remaining 
pockets of Capitol resistance. On President Snow: 
He's being held prisoner, awaiting trial and most 
certain execution. On my assassination team: 
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Cressida and Pollux have been sent out into the 
districts to cover the wreckage of the war. Gale, who 
took two bullets in an escape attempt, is mopping up 
Peacekeepers in 2. Peeta's still in the burn unit. He 
made it to the City Circle after all. On my family: My 
mother buries her grief in her work. 

Having no work, grief buries me. All that keeps me 
going is Coin's promise. That I can kill Snow. And 
when that's done, nothing will be left. 

Eventually, I'm released from the hospital and given a 
room in the president's mansion to share with my 
mother. She's almost never there, taking her meals 
and sleeping at work. It falls to Haymitch to check on 
me, make sure I'm eating and using my medicines. 
It's not an easy job. I take to my old habits from 
District 13. Wandering unauthorized through the 
mansion. Into bedrooms and offices, ballrooms and 
baths. Seeking strange little hiding spaces. A closet of 
furs. A cabinet in the library. A long-forgotten 
bathtub in a room of discarded furniture. My places 
are dim and quiet and impossible to find. I curl up, 
make myself smaller, try to disappear entirely. 
Wrapped in silence, I slide my bracelet that reads 
mentally disoriented around and around my wrist. 

My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years 
old. My home is District 12. There is no District 12.1 
am the Mockingjay. I brought down the Capitol. 
President Snow hates me. He killed my sister. Now I 
will kill him. And then the Hunger Games will be 
over.... 

Periodically, I find myself back in my room, unsure 
whether I was driven by a need for morphling or if 
Haymitch ferreted me out. I eat the food, take the 
medicine, and am required to bathe. It's not the water 
I mind, but the mirror that reflects my naked fire- 
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mutt body. The skin grafts still retain a newborn-baby 
pinkness. The skin deemed damaged but salvageable 
looks red, hot, and melted in places. Patches of my 
former self gleam white and pale. I'm like a bizarre 
patchwork quilt of skin. Parts of my hair were singed 
off completely; the rest has been chopped off at odd 
lengths. Katniss Everdeen, the girl who was on fire. I 
wouldn't much care except the sight of my body 
brings back the memory of the pain. And why I was in 
pain. And what happened just before the pain started. 
And how I watched my little sister become a human 
torch. 

Closing my eyes doesn't help. Fire burns brighter in 
the darkness. 

Dr. Aurelius shows up sometimes. I like him because 
he doesn't say stupid things like how I'm totally safe, 
or that he knows I can't see it but I'll be happy again 
one day, or even that things will be better in Panem 
now. He just asks if I feel like talking, and when I 
don't answer, he falls asleep in his chair. In fact, I 
think his visits are largely motivated by his need for a 
nap. The arrangement works for both of us. 

The time draws near, although I could not give you 
exact hours and minutes. President Snow has been 
tried and found guilty, sentenced to execution. 
Haymitch tells me, I hear talk of it as I drift past the 
guards in the hallways. My Mockingjay suit arrives in 
my room. Also my bow, looking no worse for wear, but 
no sheath of arrows. Either because they were 
damaged or more likely because I shouldn't have 
weapons. I vaguely wonder if I should be preparing for 
the event in some way, but nothing comes to mind. 

Late one afternoon, after a long period in a cushioned 
window seat behind a painted screen, I emerge and 
turn left instead of right. I find myself in a strange 
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part of the mansion, and immediately lose my 
bearings. Unlike the area where I'm quartered, there 
seems to be no one around to ask. I like it, though. 
Wish I'd found it sooner. It's so quiet, with the thick 
carpets and heavy tapestries soaking up the sound. 
Softly lit. Muted colors. Peaceful. Until I smell the 
roses. I dive behind some curtains, shaking too hard 
to run, while I await the mutts. Finally, I realize there 
are no mutts coming. So, what do I smell? Real roses? 
Could it be that I am near the garden where the evil 
things grow? 

As I creep down the hall, the odor becomes 
overpowering. Perhaps not as strong as the actual 
mutts, but purer, because it's not competing with 
sewage and explosives. I turn a corner and find 
myself staring at two surprised guards. Not 
Peacekeepers, of course. There are no more 
Peacekeepers. But not the trim, gray-uniformed 
soldiers from 13 either. These two, a man and a 
woman, wear the tattered, thrown-together clothes of 
actual rebels. Still bandaged and gaunt, they are now 
keeping watch over the doorway to the roses. When I 
move to enter, their guns form an X in front of me. 

"You can't go in, miss," says the man. 

"Soldier," the woman corrects him. "You can't go in, 
Soldier Everdeen. President's orders." 

I just stand there patiently waiting for them to lower 
their guns, for them to understand, without my telling 
them, that behind those doors is something I need. 
Just a rose. A single bloom. To place in Snow's lapel 
before I shoot him. My presence seems to worry the 
guards. They're discussing calling Haymitch, when a 
woman speaks up behind me. "Let her go in." 



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I know the voice but can't immediately place it. Not 
Seam, not 13, definitely not Capitol. I turn my head 
and find myself face-to-face with Paylor, the 
commander from 8. She looks even more beat up 
than she did at the hospital, but who doesn't? 

"On my authority," says Paylor. "She has a right to 
anything behind that door." These are her soldiers, 
not Coin's. They drop their weapons without question 
and let me pass. 

At the end of a short hallway, I push apart the glass 
doors and step inside. By now the smell's so strong 
that it begins to flatten out, as if there's no more my 
nose can absorb. The damp, mild air feels good on my 
hot skin. And the roses are glorious. Row after row of 
sumptuous blooms, in lush pink, sunset orange, and 
even pale blue. I wander through the aisles of 
carefully pruned plants, looking but not touching, 
because I have learned the hard way how deadly 
these beauties can be. I know when I find it, crowning 
the top of a slender bush. A magnificent white bud 
just beginning to open. I pull my left sleeve over my 
hand so that my skin won't actually have to touch it, 
take up a pair of pruning shears, and have just 
positioned them on the stem when he speaks. 

"That's a nice one." 

My hand jerks, the shears snap shut, severing the 
stem. 

"The colors are lovely, of course, but nothing says 
perfection like white." 

I still can't see him, but his voice seems to rise up 
from an adjacent bed of red roses. Delicately pinching 
the stem of the bud through the fabric of my sleeve, I 
move slowly around the corner and find him sitting 
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on a stool against the wall. He's as well groomed and 
finely dressed as ever, but weighted down with 
manacles, ankle shackles, tracking devices. In the 
bright light, his skin's a pale, sickly green. He holds a 
white handkerchief spotted with fresh blood. Even in 
his deteriorated state, his snake eyes shine bright and 
cold. "I was hoping you'd find your way to my 
quarters." 

His quarters. I have trespassed into his home, the 
way he slithered into mine last year, hissing threats 
with his bloody, rosy breath. This greenhouse is one 
of his rooms, perhaps his favorite; perhaps in better 
times he tended the plants himself. But now it's part 
of his prison. That's why the guards halted me. And 
that's why Paylor let me in. 

I'd supposed he would be secured in the deepest 
dungeon that the Capitol had to offer, not cradled in 
the lap of luxury. Yet Coin left him here. To set a 
precedent, I guess. So that if in the future she ever 
fell from grace, it would be understood that 
presidents- -even the most despicable— get special 
treatment. Who knows, after all, when her own power 
might fade? 

"There are so many things we should discuss, but I 
have a feeling your visit will be brief. So, first things 
first." He begins to cough, and when he removes the 
handkerchief from his mouth, it's redder. "I wanted to 
tell you how very sorry I am about your sister." 

Even in my deadened, drugged condition, this sends a 
stab of pain through me. Reminding me that there are 
no limits to his cruelty. And how he will go to his 
grave trying to destroy me. 

"So wasteful, so unnecessary. Anyone could see the 
game was over by that point. In fact, I was just about 
341 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



to issue an official surrender when they released 
those parachutes." His eyes are glued on me, 
unblinking, so as not to miss a second of my reaction. 
But what he's said makes no sense. When they 
released the parachutes? "Well, you really didn't think 
I gave the order, did you? Forget the obvious fact that 
if I'd had a working hovercraft at my disposal, I'd have 
been using it to make an escape. But that aside, what 
purpose could it have served? We both know I'm not 
above killing children, but I'm not wasteful. I take life 
for very specific reasons. And there was no reason for 
me to destroy a pen full of Capitol children. None at 
all." 

I wonder if the next fit of coughing is staged so that I 
can have time to absorb his words. He's lying. Of 
course, he's lying. But there's something struggling to 
free itself from the lie as well. 

"However, I must concede it was a masterful move on 
Coin's part. The idea that I was bombing our own 
helpless children instantly snapped whatever frail 
allegiance my people still felt to me. There was no real 
resistance after that. Did you know it aired live? You 
can see Plutarch's hand there. And in the parachutes. 
Well, it's that sort of thinking that you look for in a 
Head Gamemaker, isn't it?" Snow dabs the corners of 
his mouth. "I'm sure he wasn't gunning for your 
sister, but these things happen." 

I'm not with Snow now. I'm in Special Weaponry back 
in 13 with Gale and Beetee. Looking at the designs 
based on Gale's traps. That played on human 
sympathies. The first bomb killed the victims. The 
second, the rescuers. Remembering Gale's words. 

"Beetee and I have been following the same rule book 
President Snow used when he hijacked Peeta." 



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"My failure," says Snow, "was being so slow to grasp 
Coin's plan. To let the Capitol and districts destroy 
one another, and then step in to take power with 
Thirteen barely scratched. Make no mistake, she was 
intending to take my place right from the beginning. I 
shouldn't be surprised. After all, it was Thirteen that 
started the rebellion that led to the Dark Days, and 
then abandoned the rest of the districts when the tide 
turned against it. But I wasn't watching Coin. I was 
watching you, Mockingjay. And you were watching 
me. I'm afraid we have both been played for fools." 

I refuse for this to be true. Some things even I can't 
survive. I utter my first words since my sister's death. 
"I don't believe you." 

Snow shakes his head in mock disappointment. "Oh, 
my dear Miss Everdeen. I thought we had agreed not 
to lie to each other." 



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Out in the hall, I find Paylor standing in exactly the 
same spot. "Did you find what you were looking for?" 
she asks. 

I hold up the white bud in answer and then stumble 
past her. I must have made it back to my room, 
because the next thing I know, I'm filling a glass with 
water from the bathroom faucet and sticking the rose 
in it. I sink to my knees on the cold tile and squint at 
the flower, as the whiteness seems hard to focus on in 
the stark fluorescent light. My finger catches the 
inside of my bracelet, twisting it like a tourniquet, 
hurting my wrist. I'm hoping the pain will help me 
hang on to reality the way it did for Peeta. I must 
hang on. I must know the truth about what has 
happened. 

There are two possibilities, although the details 
associated with them may vary. First, as I've believed, 
that the Capitol sent in that hovercraft, dropped the 
parachutes, and sacrificed its children's lives, 
knowing the recently arrived rebels would go to their 
aid. There's evidence to support this. The Capitol's 
seal on the hovercraft, the lack of any attempt to blow 
the enemy out of the sky, and their long history of 
using children as pawns in their battle against the 
districts. Then there's Snow's account. That a Capitol 
hovercraft manned by rebels bombed the children to 
bring a speedy end to the war. But if this was the 
case, why didn't the Capitol fire on the enemy? Did 
the element of surprise throw them? Had they no 
defenses left? Children are precious to 13, or so it has 
always seemed. Well, not me, maybe. Once I had 
outlived my usefulness, I was expendable. Although I 




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think it's been a long time since I've been considered 
a child in this war. And why would they do it knowing 
their own medics would likely respond and be taken 
out by the second blast? They wouldn't. They 
couldn't. Snow's lying. Manipulating me as he always 
has. Hoping to turn me against the rebels and 
possibly destroy them. Yes. Of course. 

Then what's nagging at me? Those double-exploding 
bombs, for one. It's not that the Capitol couldn't have 
the same weapon, it's just that I'm sure the rebels 
did. Gale and Beetee's brainchild. Then there's the 
fact that Snow made no escape attempt, when I know 
him to be the consummate survivor. It seems hard to 
believe he didn't have a retreat somewhere, some 
bunker stocked with provisions where he could live 
out the rest of his snaky little life. And finally, there's 
his assessment of Coin. What's irrefutable is that 
she's done exactly what he said. Let the Capitol and 
the districts run one another into the ground and 
then sauntered in to take power. Even if that was her 
plan, it doesn't mean she dropped those parachutes. 
Victory was already in her grasp. Everything was in 
her grasp. 

Except me. 

I recall Boggs's response when I admitted I hadn't put 
much thought into Snow's successor. "If your 
immediate answer isn't Coin, then you're a threat. 
You're the face of the rebellion. You may have more 
influence than any other single person. Outwardly, 
the most you've ever done is tolerated her." 

Suddenly, I'm thinking of Prim, who was not yet 
fourteen, not yet old enough to be granted the title of 
soldier, but somehow working on the front lines. How 
did such a thing happen? That my sister would have 
wanted to be there, I have no doubt. That she would 



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be more capable than many older than she is a given. 
But for all that, someone very high up would have 
had to approve putting a thirteen-year-old in combat. 
Did Coin do it, hoping that losing Prim would push 
me completely over the edge? Or, at least, firmly on 
her side? I wouldn't even have had to witness it in 
person. Numerous cameras would be covering the 
City Circle. Capturing the moment forever. 

No, now I am going crazy, slipping into some state of 
paranoia. Too many people would know of the 
mission. Word would get out. Or would it? Who would 
have to know besides Coin, Plutarch, and a small, 
loyal or easily disposable crew? 

I badly need help working this out, only everyone I 
trust is dead. Cinna. Boggs. Finnick. Prim. There's 
Peeta, but he couldn't do any more than speculate, 
and who knows what state his mind's in, anyway. 
And that leaves only Gale. He's far away, but even if 
he were beside me, could I confide in him? What 
could I say, how could I phrase it, without implying 
that it was his bomb that killed Prim? The 
impossibility of that idea, more than any, is why 
Snow must be lying. 

Ultimately, there's only one person to turn to who 
might know what happened and might still be on my 
side. To broach the subject at all will be a risk. But 
while I think Haymitch might gamble with my life in 
the arena, I don't think he'd rat me out to Coin. 
Whatever problems we may have with each other, we 
prefer resolving our differences one-on-one. 

I scramble off the tiles, out the door, and across the 
hall to his room. When there's no response to my 
knock, I push inside. Ugh. It's amazing how quickly 
he can defile a space. Half-eaten plates of food, 
shattered liquor bottles, and pieces of broken 
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furniture from a drunken rampage scatter his 
quarters. He lies, unkempt and unwashed, in a tangle 
of sheets on the bed, passed out. 

"Haymitch," I say, shaking his leg. Of course, that's 
insufficient. But I give it a few more tries before I 
dump the pitcher of water in his face. He comes to 
with a gasp, slashing blindly with his knife. 
Apparently, the end of Snow's reign didn't equal the 
end of his terror. 

"Oh. You," he says. I can tell by his voice that he's 
still loaded. 

"Haymitch," I begin. 

"Listen to that. The Mockingjay found her voice." He 
laughs. "Well, Plutarch's going to be happy." He takes 
a swig from a bottle. "Why am I soaking wet?" I lamely 
drop the pitcher behind me into a pile of dirty clothes. 

"I need your help," I say. 

Haymitch belches, filling the air with white liquor 
fumes. "What is it, sweetheart? More boy trouble?" I 
don't know why, but this hurts me in a way Haymitch 
rarely can. It must show on my face, because even in 
his drunken state, he tries to take it back. "Okay, not 
funny." I'm already at the door. "Not funny! Come 
back!" By the thud of his body hitting the floor, I 
assume he tried to follow me, but there's no point. 

I zigzag through the mansion and disappear into a 
wardrobe full of silken things. I yank them from 
hangers until I have a pile and then burrow into it. In 
the lining of my pocket, I find a stray morphling tablet 
and swallow it dry, heading off my rising hysteria. It's 
not enough to right things, though. I hear Haymitch 
calling me in the distance, but he won't find me in his 



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condition. Especially not in this new spot. Swathed in 
silk, I feel like a caterpillar in a cocoon awaiting 
metamorphosis. I always supposed that to be a 
peaceful condition. At first it is. But as I journey into 
night, I feel more and more trapped, suffocated by the 
slippery bindings, unable to emerge until I have 
transformed into something of beauty. I squirm, 
trying to shed my ruined body and unlock the secret 
to growing flawless wings. Despite enormous effort, I 
remain a hideous creature, fired into my current form 
by the blast from the bombs. 

The encounter with Snow opens the door to my old 
repertoire of nightmares. It's like being stung by 
tracker j ackers again. A wave of horrifying images 
with a brief respite I confuse with waking— only to find 
another wave knocking me back. When the guards 
finally locate me, I'm sitting on the floor of the 
wardrobe, tangled in silk, screaming my head off. I 
fight them at first, until they convince me they're 
trying to help, peel away the choking garments, and 
escort me back to my room. On the way, we pass a 
window and I see a gray, snowy dawn spreading 
across the Capitol. 

A very hungover Haymitch waits with a handful of 
pills and a tray of food that neither of us has the 
stomach for. He makes a feeble attempt to get me to 
talk again but, seeing it's pointless, sends me to a 
bath someone has drawn. The tub's deep, with three 
steps to the bottom. I ease down into the warm water 
and sit, up to my neck in suds, hoping the medicines 
kick in soon. My eyes focus on the rose that has 
spread its petals overnight, filling the steamy air with 
its strong perfume. I rise and reach for a towel to 
smother it, when there's a tentative knock and the 
bathroom door opens, revealing three familiar faces. 
They try to smile at me, but even Venia can't conceal 
her shock at my ravaged mutt body. "Surprise!" 
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Octavia squeaks, and then bursts into tears. I'm 
puzzling over their reappearance when I realize that 
this must be it, the day of the execution. They've 
come to prep me for the cameras. Remake me to 
Beauty Base Zero. No wonder Octavia's crying. It's an 
impossible task. 

They can barely touch my patchwork of skin for fear 
of hurting me, so I rinse and dry off myself. I tell them 
I hardly notice the pain anymore, but Flavius still 
winces as he drapes a robe around me. In the 
bedroom, I find another surprise. Sitting upright in a 
chair. Polished from her metallic gold wig to her 
patent leather high heels, gripping a clipboard. 
Remarkably unchanged except for the vacant look in 
her eyes. 

"Effie," I say. 

"Hello, Katniss." She stands and kisses me on the 
cheek as if nothing has occurred since our last 
meeting, the night before the Quarter Quell. "Well, it 
looks like we've got another big, big, big day ahead of 
us. So why don't you start your prep and I'll just pop 
over and check on the arrangements." 

"Okay," I say to her back. 

"They say Plutarch and Haymitch had a hard time 
keeping her alive," comments Venia under her breath. 
"She was imprisoned after your escape, so that 
helps." 

It's quite a stretch. Effie Trinket, rebel. But I don't 
want Coin killing her, so I make a mental note to 
present her that way if asked. "I guess it's good 
Plutarch kidnapped you three after all." 



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"We're the only prep team still alive. And all the 
stylists from the Quarter Quell are dead," says Venia. 
She doesn't say who specifically killed them. I'm 
beginning to wonder if it matters. She gingerly takes 
one of my scarred hands and holds it out for 
inspection. "Now, what do you think for the nails? 
Red or maybe a jet black?" 

Flavius performs some beauty miracle on my hair, 
managing to even out the front while getting some of 
the longer locks to hide the bald spots in the back. 
My face, since it was spared from the flames, presents 
no more than the usual challenges. Once I'm in 
Cinna's Mockingjay suit, the only scars visible are on 
my neck, forearms, and hands. Octavia secures my 
Mockingjay pin over my heart and we step back to 
look in the mirror. I can't believe how normal they've 
made me look on the outside when inwardly I'm such 
a wasteland. 

There's a tap at the door and Gale steps in. "Can I 
have a minute?" he asks. In the mirror, I watch my 
prep team. Unsure of where to go, they bump into one 
another a few times and then closet themselves in the 
bathroom. Gale comes up behind me and we examine 
each other's reflection. I'm searching for something to 
hang on to, some sign of the girl and boy who met by 
chance in the woods five years ago and became 
inseparable. I'm wondering what would have 
happened to them if the Hunger Games had not 
reaped the girl. If she would have fallen in love with 
the boy, married him even. And sometime in the 
future, when the brothers and sisters had been raised 
up, escaped with him into the woods and left 12 
behind forever. Would they have been happy, out in 
the wild, or would the dark, twisted sadness between 
them have grown up even without the Capitol's help? 



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"I brought you this." Gale holds up a sheath. When I 
take it, I notice it holds a single, ordinary arrow. "It's 
supposed to be symbolic. You firing the last shot of 
the war." 

"What if I miss?" I say. "Does Coin retrieve it and 
bring it back to me? Or just shoot Snow through the 
head herself?" 

"You won't miss." Gale adjusts the sheath on my 
shoulder. 

We stand there, face-to-face, not meeting each other's 
eyes. "You didn't come see me in the hospital." He 
doesn't answer, so finally I just say it. "Was it your 
bomb?" 

"I don't know. Neither does Beetee," he says. "Does it 
matter? You'll always be thinking about it." 

He waits for me to deny it; I want to deny it, but it's 
true. Even now I can see the flash that ignites her, 
feel the heat of the flames. And I will never be able to 
separate that moment from Gale. My silence is my 
answer. 

"That was the one thing I had going for me. Taking 
care of your family," he says. "Shoot straight, okay?" 
He touches my cheek and leaves. I want to call him 
back and tell him that I was wrong. That I'll figure out 
a way to make peace with this. To remember the 
circumstances under which he created the bomb. 
Take into account my own inexcusable crimes. Dig up 
the truth about who dropped the parachutes. Prove it 
wasn't the rebels. Forgive him. But since I can't, I'll 
just have to deal with the pain. 

Effie comes in to usher me to some kind of meeting. I 
collect my bow and at the last minute remember the 



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rose, glistening in its glass of water. When I open the 
door to the bathroom, I find my prep team sitting in a 
row on the edge of the tub, hunched and defeated. I 
remember I'm not the only one whose world has been 
stripped away. "Come on," I tell them. "We've got an 
audience waiting." 

I'm expecting a production meeting in which Plutarch 
instructs me where to stand and gives me my cue for 
shooting Snow. Instead, I find myself sent into a room 
where six people sit around a table. Peeta, Johanna, 
Beetee, Haymitch, Annie, and Enobaria. They all wear 
the gray rebel uniforms from 13. No one looks 
particularly well. "What's this?" I say. 

"We're not sure," Haymitch answers. "It appears to be 
a gathering of the remaining victors." 

"We're all that's left?" I ask. 

"The price of celebrity," says Beetee. "We were 
targeted from both sides. The Capitol killed the victors 
they suspected of being rebels. The rebels killed those 
thought to be allied with the Capitol." 

Johanna scowls at Enobaria. "So what's she doing 
here?" 

"She is protected under what we call the Mockingjay 
Deal," says Coin as she enters behind me. "Wherein 
Katniss Everdeen agreed to support the rebels in 
exchange for captured victors' immunity. Katniss has 
upheld her side of the bargain, and so shall we." 

Enobaria smiles at Johanna. "Don't look so smug," 
says Johanna. "We'll kill you anyway." 

"Sit down, please, Katniss," says Coin, closing the 
door. I take a seat between Annie and Beetee, 



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carefully placing Snow's rose on the table. As usual, 
Coin gets right to the point. "I've asked you here to 
settle a debate. Today we will execute Snow. In the 
previous weeks, hundreds of his accomplices in the 
oppression of Panem have been tried and now await 
their own deaths. However, the suffering in the 
districts has been so extreme that these measures 
appear insufficient to the victims. In fact, many are 
calling for a complete annihilation of those who held 
Capitol citizenship. However, in the interest of 
maintaining a sustainable population, we cannot 
afford this." 

Through the water in the glass, I see a distorted 
image of one of Peeta's hands. The burn marks. We 
are both fire mutts now. My eyes travel up to where 
the flames licked across his forehead, singeing away 
his brows but just missing his eyes. Those same blue 
eyes that used to meet mine and then flit away at 
school. Just as they do now. 

"So, an alternative has been placed on the table. 
Since my colleagues and I can come to no consensus, 
it has been agreed that we will let the victors decide. 
A majority of four will approve the plan. No one may 
abstain from the vote," says Coin. "What has been 
proposed is that in lieu of eliminating the entire 
Capitol population, we have a final, symbolic Hunger 
Games, using the children directly related to those 
who held the most power." 

All seven of us turn to her. "What?" says Johanna. 

"We hold another Hunger Games using Capitol 
children," says Coin. 

"Are you joking?" asks Peeta. 



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"No. I should also tell you that if we do hold the 
Games, it will be known it was done with your 
approval, although the individual breakdown of your 
votes will be kept secret for your own security," Coin 
tells us. 

"Was this Plutarch's idea?" asks Haymitch. 

"It was mine," says Coin. "It seemed to balance the 
need for vengeance with the least loss of life. You may 
cast your votes." 

"No!" bursts out Peeta. "I vote no, of course! We can't 
have another Hunger Games!" 

"Why not?" Johanna retorts. "It seems very fair to me. 
Snow even has a granddaughter. I vote yes." 

"So do I," says Enobaria, almost indifferently. "Let 
them have a taste of their own medicine." 

"This is why we rebelled! Remember?" Peeta looks at 
the rest of us. "Annie?" 

"I vote no with Peeta," she says. "So would Finnick if 
he were here." 

"But he isn't, because Snow's mutts killed him," 
Johanna reminds her. 

"No," says Beetee. "It would set a bad precedent. We 
have to stop viewing one another as enemies. At this 
point, unity is essential for our survival. No." 

"We're down to Katniss and Haymitch," says Coin. 

Was it like this then? Seventy-five years or so ago? 
Did a group of people sit around and cast their votes 
on initiating the Hunger Games? Was there dissent? 



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Did someone make a case for mercy that was beaten 
down by the calls for the deaths of the districts' 
children? The scent of Snow's rose curls up into my 
nose, down into my throat, squeezing it tight with 
despair. All those people I loved, dead, and we are 
discussing the next Hunger Games in an attempt to 
avoid wasting life. Nothing has changed. Nothing will 
ever change now. 

I weigh my options carefully, think everything 
through. Keeping my eyes on the rose, I say, "I vote 
yes... for Prim." 

"Haymitch, it's up to you," says Coin. 

A furious Peeta hammers Haymitch with the atrocity 
he could become party to, but I can feel Haymitch 
watching me. This is the moment, then. When we find 
out exactly just how alike we are, and how much he 
truly understands me. 

"I'm with the Mockingjay," he says. 

"Excellent. That carries the vote," says Coin. "Now we 
really must take our places for the execution." 

As she passes me, I hold up the glass with the rose. 
"Can you see that Snow's wearing this? Just over his 
heart?" 

Coin smiles. "Of course. And I'll make sure he knows 
about the Games." 

"Thank you," I say. 

People sweep into the room, surround me. The last 
touch of powder, the instructions from Plutarch as 
I'm guided to the front doors of the mansion. The City 
Circle runs over, spills people down the side streets. 



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The others take their places outside. Guards. 
Officials. Rebel leaders. Victors. I hear the cheers that 
indicate Coin has appeared on the balcony. Then Effie 
taps my shoulder, and I step out into the cold winter 
sunlight. Walk to my position, accompanied by the 
deafening roar of the crowd. As directed, I turn so 
they see me in profile, and wait. When they march 
Snow out the door, the audience goes insane. They 
secure his hands behind a post, which is 
unnecessary. He's not going anywhere. There's 
nowhere to go. This is not the roomy stage before the 
Training Center but the narrow terrace in front of the 
president's mansion. No wonder no one bothered to 
have me practice. He's ten yards away. 

I feel the bow purring in my hand. Reach back and 
grasp the arrow. Position it, aim at the rose, but 
watch his face. He coughs and a bloody dribble runs 
down his chin. His tongue flicks over his puffy lips. I 
search his eyes for the slightest sign of anything, fear, 
remorse, anger. But there's only the same look of 
amusement that ended our last conversation. It's as if 
he's speaking the words again. "Oh, my dear Miss 
Everdeen. I thought we had agreed not to lie to each 
other." 

He's right. We did. 

The point of my arrow shifts upward. I release the 
string. And President Coin collapses over the side of 
the balcony and plunges to the ground. Dead. 



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In the stunned reaction that follows, I'm aware of one 
sound. Snow's laughter. An awful gurgling cackle 
accompanied by an eruption of foamy blood when the 
coughing begins. I see him bend forward, spewing out 
his life, until the guards block him from my sight. 

As the gray uniforms begin to converge on me, I think 
of what my brief future as the assassin of Panem's 
new president holds. The interrogation, probable 
torture, certain public execution. Having, yet again, to 
say my final goodbyes to the handful of people who 
still maintain a hold on my heart. The prospect of 
facing my mother, who will now be entirely alone in 
the world, decides it. 

"Good night," I whisper to the bow in my hand and 
feel it go still. I raise my left arm and twist my neck 
down to rip off the pill on my sleeve. Instead my teeth 
sink into flesh. I yank my head back in confusion to 
find myself looking into Peeta's eyes, only now they 
hold my gaze. Blood runs from the teeth marks on the 
hand he clamped over my nightlock. "Let me go!" I 
snarl at him, trying to wrest my arm from his grasp. 

"I can't," he says. As they pull me away from him, I 
feel the pocket ripped from my sleeve, see the deep 
violet pill fall to the ground, watch Cinna's last gift get 
crunched under a guard's boot. I transform into a 
wild animal, kicking, clawing, biting, doing whatever I 
can to free myself from this web of hands as the 
crowd pushes in. The guards lift me up above the 
fray, where I continue to thrash as I'm conveyed over 
the crush of people. I start screaming for Gale. I can't 
find him in the throng, but he will know what I want. 



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A good clean shot to end it all. Only there's no arrow, 
no bullet. Is it possible he can't see me? No. Above us, 
on the giant screens placed around the City Circle, 
everyone can watch the whole thing being played out. 
He sees, he knows, but he doesn't follow through. 
Just as I didn't when he was captured. Sorry excuses 
for hunters and friends. Both of us. 

I'm on my own. 

In the mansion, they handcuff and blindfold me. I'm 
half dragged, half carried down long passages, up and 
down elevators, and deposited on a carpeted floor. 
The cuffs are removed and a door slams closed 
behind me. When I push the blindfold up, I find I'm in 
my old room at the Training Center. The one where I 
lived during those last precious days before my first 
Hunger Games and the Quarter Quell. The bed's 
stripped to the mattress, the closet gapes open, 
showing the emptiness inside, but I'd know this room 
anywhere. 

It's a struggle to get to my feet and peel off my 
Mockingjay suit. I'm badly bruised and might have a 
broken finger or two, but it's my skin that's paid most 
dearly for my struggle with the guards. The new pink 
stuff has shredded like tissue paper and blood seeps 
through the laboratory- grown cells. No medics show 
up, though, and as I'm too far gone to care, I crawl up 
onto the mattress, expecting to bleed to death. 

No such luck. By evening, the blood clots, leaving me 
stiff and sore and sticky but alive. I limp into the 
shower and program in the gentlest cycle I can 
remember, free of any soaps and hair products, and 
squat under the warm spray, elbows on my knees, 
head in my hands. 



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My name is Katniss Everdeen. Why am I not dead? I 
should be dead. It would be best for everyone if I were 
dead.... 



When I step out on the mat, the hot air bakes my 
damaged skin dry. There's nothing clean to put on. 
Not even a towel to wrap around me. Back in the 
room, I find the Mockingjay suit has disappeared. In 
its place is a paper robe. A meal has been sent up 
from the mysterious kitchen with a container of my 
medications for dessert. I go ahead and eat the food, 
take the pills, rub the salve on my skin. I need to 
focus now on the manner of my suicide. 

I curl back up on the bloodstained mattress, not cold 
but feeling so naked with just the paper to cover my 
tender flesh. Jumping to my death's not an option— 
the window glass must be a foot thick. I can make an 
excellent noose, but there's nothing to hang myself 
from. It's possible I could hoard my pills and then 
knock myself off with a lethal dose, except that I'm 
sure I'm being watched round the clock. For all I 
know, I'm on live television at this very moment while 
commentators try to analyze what could possibly have 
motivated me to kill Coin. The surveillance makes 
almost any suicide attempt impossible. Taking my life 
is the Capitol's privilege. Again. 

What I can do is give up. I resolve to lie on the bed 
without eating, drinking, or taking my medications. I 
could do it, too. Just die. If it weren't for the 
morphling withdrawal. Not bit by bit like in the 
hospital in 13, but cold turkey. I must have been on a 
fairly large dose because when the craving for it hits, 
accompanied by tremors, and shooting pains, and 
unbearable cold, my resolve's crushed like an 
eggshell. I'm on my knees, raking the carpet with my 
fingernails to find those precious pills I flung away in 
a stronger moment. I revise my suicide plan to slow 



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death by morphling. I will become a yellow- skinned 
bag of bones, with enormous eyes. I'm a couple of 
days into the plan, making good progress, when 
something unexpected happens. 

I begin to sing. At the window, in the shower, in my 
sleep. Hour after hour of ballads, love songs, 
mountain airs. All the songs my father taught me 
before he died, for certainly there has been very little 
music in my life since. What's amazing is how clearly 
I remember them. The tunes, the lyrics. My voice, at 
first rough and breaking on the high notes, warms up 
into something splendid. A voice that would make the 
mockingj ays fall silent and then tumble over 
themselves to join in. Days pass, weeks. I watch the 
snows fall on the ledge outside my window. And in all 
that time, mine is the only voice I hear. 

What are they doing, anyway? What's the holdup out 
there? How difficult can it be to arrange the execution 
of one murderous girl? I continue with my own 
annihilation. My body's thinner than it's ever been 
and my battle against hunger is so fierce that 
sometimes the animal part of me gives in to the 
temptation of buttered bread or roasted meat. But 
still, I'm winning. For a few days I feel quite unwell 
and think I may finally be traveling out of this life, 
when I realize my morphling tablets are shrinking. 
They are trying to slowly wean me off the stuff. But 
why? Surely a drugged Mockingj ay will be easier to 
dispose of in front of a crowd. And then a terrible 
thought hits me: What if they're not going to kill me? 
What if they have more plans for me? A new way to 
remake, train, and use me? 

I won't do it. If I can't kill myself in this room, I will 
take the first opportunity outside of it to finish the 
job. They can fatten me up. They can give me a full 
body polish, dress me up, and make me beautiful 
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again. They can design dream weapons that come to 
life in my hands, but they will never again brainwash 
me into the necessity of using them. I no longer feel 
any allegiance to these monsters called human 
beings, despise being one myself. I think that Peeta 
was onto something about us destroying one another 
and letting some decent species take over. Because 
something is significantly wrong with a creature that 
sacrifices its children's lives to settle its differences. 
You can spin it any way you like. Snow thought the 
Hunger Games were an efficient means of control. 
Coin thought the parachutes would expedite the war. 
But in the end, who does it benefit? No one. The truth 
is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these 
things happen. 

After two days of my lying on my mattress with no 
attempt to eat, drink, or even take a morphling tablet, 
the door to my room opens. Someone crosses around 
the bed into my field of vision. Haymitch. "Your trial's 
over," he says. "Come on. We're going home." 

Home? What's he talking about? My home's gone. 
And even if it were possible to go to this imaginary 
place, I am too weak to move. Strangers appear. 
Rehydrate and feed me. Bathe and clothe me. One 
lifts me like a rag doll and carries me up to the roof, 
onto a hovercraft, and fastens me into a seat. 
Haymitch and Plutarch sit across from me. In a few 
moments, we're airborne. 

I've never seen Plutarch in such a good mood. He's 
positively glowing. "You must have a million 
questions!" When I don't respond, he answers them 
anyway. 

After I shot Coin, there was pandemonium. When the 
ruckus died down, they discovered Snow's body, still 
tethered to the post. Opinions differ on whether he 
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choked to death while laughing or was crushed by the 
crowd. No one really cares. An emergency election 
was thrown together and Paylor was voted in as 
president. Plutarch was appointed secretary of 
communications, which means he sets the 
programming for the airwaves. The first big televised 
event was my trial, in which he was also a star 
witness. In my defense, of course. Although most of 
the credit for my exoneration must be given to Dr. 
Aurelius, who apparently earned his naps by 
presenting me as a hopeless, shell-shocked lunatic. 
One condition for my release is that I'll continue 
under his care, although it will have to be by phone 
because he'd never live in a forsaken place like 12, 
and I'm confined there until further notice. The truth 
is, no one quite knows what to do with me now that 
the war's over, although if another one should spring 
up, Plutarch's sure they could find a role for me. Then 
Plutarch has a good laugh. It never seems to bother 
him when no one else appreciates his jokes. 

"Are you preparing for another war, Plutarch?" I ask. 

"Oh, not now. Now we're in that sweet period where 
everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never 
be repeated," he says. "But collective thinking is 
usually short-lived. We're fickle, stupid beings with 
poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction. 
Although who knows? Maybe this will be it, Katniss." 

"What?" I ask. 

"The time it sticks. Maybe we are witnessing the 
evolution of the human race. Think about that." And 
then he asks me if I'd like to perform on a new singing 
program he's launching in a few weeks. Something 
upbeat would be good. He'll send the crew to my 
house. 



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We land briefly in District 3 to drop off Plutarch. He's 
meeting with Beetee to update the technology on the 
broadcast system. His parting words to me are "Don't 
be a stranger." 

When we're back among the clouds, I look at 
Haymitch. "So why are you going back to Twelve?" 

"They can't seem to find a place for me in the Capitol 
either," he says. 

At first, I don't question this. But doubts begin to 
creep in. Haymitch hasn't assassinated anyone. He 
could go anywhere. If he's coming back to 12, it's 
because he's been ordered to. "You have to look after 
me, don't you? As my mentor?" He shrugs. Then I 
realize what it means. "My mother's not coming back." 

"No," he says. He pulls an envelope from his jacket 
pocket and hands it to me. I examine the delicate, 
perfectly formed writing. "She's helping to start up a 
hospital in District Four. She wants you to call as 
soon as we get in." My finger traces the graceful 
swoop of the letters. "You know why she can't come 
back." Yes, I know why. Because between my father 
and Prim and the ashes, the place is too painful to 
bear. But apparently not for me. "Do you want to 
know who else won't be there?" 

"No," I say. "I want to be surprised." 

Like a good mentor, Haymitch makes me eat a 
sandwich and then pretends he believes I'm asleep for 
the rest of the trip. He busies himself going through 
every compartment on the hovercraft, finding the 
liquor, and stowing it in his bag. It's night when we 
land on the green of the Victor's Village. Half of the 
houses have lights in the windows, including 
Haymitch's and mine. Not Peeta's. Someone has built 
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a fire in my kitchen. I sit in the rocker before it, 
clutching my mother's letter. 



"Well, see you tomorrow," says Haymitch. 

As the clinking of his bag of liquor bottles fades away, 
I whisper, "I doubt it." 

I am unable to move from the chair. The rest of the 
house looms cold and empty and dark. I pull an old 
shawl over my body and watch the flames. I guess I 
sleep, because the next thing I know, it's morning and 
Greasy Sae's banging around at the stove. She makes 
me eggs and toast and sits there until I've eaten it all. 
We don't talk much. Her little granddaughter, the one 
who lives in her own world, takes a bright blue ball of 
yarn from my mother's knitting basket. Greasy Sae 
tells her to put it back, but I say she can have it. No 
one in this house can knit anymore. After breakfast, 
Greasy Sae does the dishes and leaves, but she comes 
back up at dinnertime to make me eat again. I don't 
know if she's just being neighborly or if she's on the 
government's payroll, but she shows up twice every 
day. She cooks, I consume. I try to figure out my next 
move. There's no obstacle now to taking my life. But I 
seem to be waiting for something. 

Sometimes the phone rings and rings and rings, but I 
don't pick it up. Haymitch never visits. Maybe he 
changed his mind and left, although I suspect he's 
just drunk. No one comes but Greasy Sae and her 
granddaughter. After months of solitary confinement, 
they seem like a crowd. 

"Spring's in the air today. You ought to get out," she 
says. "Go hunting." 

I haven't left the house. I haven't even left the kitchen 
except to go to the small bathroom a few steps off of 



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it. I'm in the same clothes I left the Capitol in. What I 
do is sit by the fire. Stare at the unopened letters 
piling up on the mantel. "I don't have a bow." 

"Check down the hall," she says. 

After she leaves, I consider a trip down the hall. Rule 
it out. But after several hours, I go anyway, walking 
in silent sock feet, so as not to awaken the ghosts. In 
the study, where I had my tea with President Snow, I 
find a box with my father's hunting jacket, our plant 
book, my parents' wedding photo, the spile Haymitch 
sent in, and the locket Peeta gave me in the clock 
arena. The two bows and a sheath of arrows Gale 
rescued on the night of the firebombing lie on the 
desk. I put on the hunting jacket and leave the rest of 
the stuff untouched. I fall asleep on the sofa in the 
formal living room. A terrible nightmare follows, 
where I'm lying at the bottom of a deep grave, and 
every dead person I know by name comes by and 
throws a shovel full of ashes on me. It's quite a long 
dream, considering the list of people, and the deeper 
I'm buried, the harder it is to breathe. I try to call out, 
begging them to stop, but the ashes fill my mouth 
and nose and I can't make any sound. Still the shovel 
scrapes on and on and on.... 

I wake with a start. Pale morning light comes around 
the edges of the shutters. The scraping of the shovel 
continues. Still half in the nightmare, I run down the 
hall, out the front door, and around the side of the 
house, because now I'm pretty sure I can scream at 
the dead. When I see him, I pull up short. His face is 
flushed from digging up the ground under the 
windows. In a wheelbarrow are five scraggly bushes. 

"You're back," I say. 



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"Dr. Aurelius wouldn't let me leave the Capitol until 
yesterday," Peeta says. "By the way, he said to tell you 
he can't keep pretending he's treating you forever. 
You have to pick up the phone." 

He looks well. Thin and covered with burn scars like 
me, but his eyes have lost that clouded, tortured look. 
He's frowning slightly, though, as he takes me in. I 
make a halfhearted effort to push my hair out of my 
eyes and realize it's matted into clumps. I feel 
defensive. "What are you doing?" 

"I went to the woods this morning and dug these up. 
For her," he says. "I thought we could plant them 
along the side of the house." 

I look at the bushes, the clods of dirt hanging from 
their roots, and catch my breath as the word rose 
registers. I'm about to yell vicious things at Peeta 
when the full name comes to me. Not plain rose but 
evening primrose. The flower my sister was named 
for. I give Peeta a nod of assent and hurry back into 
the house, locking the door behind me. But the evil 
thing is inside, not out. Trembling with weakness and 
anxiety, I run up the stairs. My foot catches on the 
last step and I crash onto the floor. I force myself to 
rise and enter my room. The smell's very faint but still 
laces the air. It's there. The white rose among the 
dried flowers in the vase. Shriveled and fragile, but 
holding on to that unnatural perfection cultivated in 
Snow's greenhouse. I grab the vase, stumble down to 
the kitchen, and throw its contents into the embers. 
As the flowers flare up, a burst of blue flame envelops 
the rose and devours it. Fire beats roses again. I 
smash the vase on the floor for good measure. 

Back upstairs, I throw open the bedroom windows to 
clear out the rest of Snow's stench. But it still lingers, 
on my clothes and in my pores. I strip, and flakes of 
366 | P a g e Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 



skin the size of playing cards cling to the garments. 
Avoiding the mirror, I step into the shower and scrub 
the roses from my hair, my body, my mouth. Bright 
pink and tingling, I find something clean to wear. It 
takes half an hour to comb out my hair. Greasy Sae 
unlocks the front door. While she makes breakfast, I 
feed the clothes I had shed to the fire. At her 
suggestion, I pare off my nails with a knife. 

Over the eggs, I ask her, "Where did Gale go?" 

"District Two. Got some fancy job there. I see him now 
and again on the television," she says. 

I dig around inside myself, trying to register anger, 
hatred, longing. I find only relief. 

"I'm going hunting today," I say. 

"Well, I wouldn't mind some fresh game at that," she 
answers. 

I arm myself with a bow and arrows and head out, 
intending to exit 12 through the Meadow. Near the 
square are teams of masked and gloved people with 
horse-drawn carts. Sifting through what lay under the 
snow this winter. Gathering remains. A cart's parked 
in front of the mayor's house. I recognize Thorn, 
Gale's old crewmate, pausing a moment to wipe the 
sweat from his face with a rag. I remember seeing him 
in 13, but he must have come back. His greeting gives 
me the courage to ask, "Did they find anyone in 
there?" 

"Whole family. And the two people who worked for 
them," Thom tells me. 

Madge. Quiet and kind and brave. The girl who gave 
me the pin that gave me a name. I swallow hard. 



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Wonder if she'll be joining the cast of my nightmares 
tonight. Shoveling the ashes into my mouth. "I 
thought maybe, since he was the mayor..." 

"I don't think being the mayor of Twelve put the odds 
in his favor," says Thorn. 

I nod and keep moving, careful not to look in the back 
of the cart. All through the town and the Seam, it's 
the same. The reaping of the dead. As I near the ruins 
of my old house, the road becomes thick with carts. 
The Meadow's gone, or at least dramatically altered. A 
deep pit has been dug, and they're lining it with 
bones, a mass grave for my people. I skirt around the 
hole and enter the woods at my usual place. It doesn't 
matter, though. The fence isn't charged anymore and 
has been propped up with long branches to keep out 
the predators. But old habits die hard. I think about 
going to the lake, but I'm so weak that I barely make 
it to my meeting place with Gale. I sit on the rock 
where Cressida filmed us, but it's too wide without 
his body beside me. Several times I close my eyes and 
count to ten, thinking that when I open them, he will 
have materialized without a sound as he so often did. 
I have to remind myself that Gale's in 2 with a fancy 
job, probably kissing another pair of lips. 

It is the old Katniss's favorite kind of day. Early 
spring. The woods awakening after the long winter. 
But the spurt of energy that began with the primroses 
fades away. By the time I make it back to the fence, 
I'm so sick and dizzy, Thorn has to give me a ride 
home in the dead people's cart. Help me to the sofa in 
the living room, where I watch the dust motes spin in 
the thin shafts of afternoon light. 

My head snaps around at the hiss, but it takes awhile 
to believe he's real. How could he have gotten here? I 
take in the claw marks from some wild animal, the 



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back paw he holds slightly above the ground, the 
prominent bones in his face. He's come on foot, then, 
all the way from 13. Maybe they kicked him out or 
maybe he just couldn't stand it there without her, so 
he came looking. 

"It was the waste of a trip. She's not here," I tell him. 
Buttercup hisses again. "She's not here. You can hiss 
all you like. You won't find Prim." At her name, he 
perks up. Raises his flattened ears. Begins to meow 
hopefully. "Get out!" He dodges the pillow I throw at 
him. "Go away! There's nothing left for you here!" I 
start to shake, furious with him. "She's not coming 
back! She's never ever coming back here again!" I 
grab another pillow and get to my feet to improve my 
aim. Out of nowhere, the tears begin to pour down my 
cheeks. "She's dead." I clutch my middle to dull the 
pain. Sink down on my heels, rocking the pillow, 
crying. "She's dead, you stupid cat. She's dead." A 
new sound, part crying, part singing, comes out of my 
body, giving voice to my despair. Buttercup begins to 
wail as well. No matter what I do, he won't go. He 
circles me, just out of reach, as wave after wave of 
sobs racks my body, until eventually I fall 
unconscious. But he must understand. He must 
know that the unthinkable has happened and to 
survive will require previously unthinkable acts. 
Because hours later, when I come to in my bed, he's 
there in the moonlight. Crouched beside me, yellow 
eyes alert, guarding me from the night. 

In the morning, he sits stoically as I clean the cuts, 
but digging the thorn from his paw brings on a round 
of those kitten mews. We both end up crying again, 
only this time we comfort each other. On the strength 
of this, I open the letter Haymitch gave me from my 
mother, dial the phone number, and weep with her as 
well. Peeta, bearing a warm loaf of bread, shows up 



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with Greasy Sae. She makes us breakfast and I feed 
all my bacon to Buttercup. 



Slowly, with many lost days, I come back to life. I try 
to follow Dr. Aurelius's advice, just going through the 
motions, amazed when one finally has meaning again. 
I tell him my idea about the book, and a large box of 
parchment sheets arrives on the next train from the 
Capitol. 

I got the idea from our family's plant book. The place 
where we recorded those things you cannot trust to 
memory. The page begins with the person's picture. A 
photo if we can find it. If not, a sketch or painting by 
Peeta. Then, in my most careful handwriting, come all 
the details it would be a crime to forget. Lady licking 
Prim's cheek. My father's laugh. Peeta's father with 
the cookies. The color of Finnick's eyes. What Cinna 
could do with a length of silk. Boggs reprogramming 
the Holo. Rue poised on her toes, arms slightly 
extended, like a bird about to take flight. On and on. 
We seal the pages with salt water and promises to live 
well to make their deaths count. Haymitch finally 
joins us, contributing twenty-three years of tributes 
he was forced to mentor. Additions become smaller. 
An old memory that surfaces. A late primrose 
preserved between the pages. Strange bits of 
happiness, like the photo of Finnick and Annie's 
newborn son. 

We learn to keep busy again. Peeta bakes. I hunt. 
Haymitch drinks until the liquor runs out, and then 
raises geese until the next train arrives. Fortunately, 
the geese can take pretty good care of themselves. 
We're not alone. A few hundred others return 
because, whatever has happened, this is our home. 
With the mines closed, they plow the ashes into the 
earth and plant food. Machines from the Capitol 
break ground for a new factory where we will make 



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medicines. Although no one seeds it, the Meadow 
turns green again. 

Peeta and I grow back together. There are still 
moments when he clutches the back of a chair and 
hangs on until the flashbacks are over. I wake 
screaming from nightmares of mutts and lost 
children. But his arms are there to comfort me. And 
eventually his lips. On the night I feel that thing 
again, the hunger that overtook me on the beach, I 
know this would have happened anyway. That what I 
need to survive is not Gale's fire, kindled with rage 
and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is 
the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that 
means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise 
that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. 
That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me 
that. 

So after, when he whispers, "You love me. Real or not 
real?" 

I tell him, "Real." 



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aaue 



They play in the Meadow. The dancing girl with the 
dark hair and blue eyes. The boy with blond curls and 
gray eyes, struggling to keep up with her on his 
chubby toddler legs. It took five, ten, fifteen years for 
me to agree. But Peeta wanted them so badly. When I 
first felt her stirring inside of me, I was consumed 
with a terror that felt as old as life itself. Only the joy 
of holding her in my arms could tame it. Carrying him 
was a little easier, but not much. 

The questions are just beginning. The arenas have 
been completely destroyed, the memorials built, there 
are no more Hunger Games. But they teach about 
them at school, and the girl knows we played a role in 
them. The boy will know in a few years. How can I tell 
them about that world without frightening them to 
death? My children, who take the words of the song 
for granted: 

Deep in the meadow, under the willow 

A bed of grass, a soft green pillow 

Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes 

And when again they open, the sun will rise. 

Here it's safe, here it's warm 

Here the daisies guard you from every harm 

Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings 
them true 

Here is the place where I love you. 

My children, who don't know they play on a 
graveyard. 



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Peeta says it will be okay. We have each other. And 
the book. We can make them understand in a way 
that will make them braver. But one day I'll have to 
explain about my nightmares. Why they came. Why 
they won't ever really go away. 

I'll tell them how I survive it. I'll tell them that on bad 
mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in 
anything because I'm afraid it could be taken away. 
That's when I make a list in my head of every act of 
goodness I've seen someone do. It's like a game. 
Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than 
twenty years. 

But there are much worse games to play. 



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THE END 



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